TWO candidates have successfully filed to compete for the University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers Union (UNZALARU) presidency for the forthcoming elective quadrennial congress.
The congress takes place from November 12 to 13 this year, and 12 candidates have qualified to compete for various positions in the six-member executive.
According to a letter of confirmation from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security dated October 20, 2020, current general secretary Dr Kelvin Mambwe has retained the position after going through unopposed.
The position of publicity secretary has also been scooped by Mervis Kikonko after going through unopposed.
“… Following nominations conducted by the office of the Labour Commissioner on 16th October, 2020 for the UNZALARU Executive Committee positions for the upcoming quadrennial [congress] and elections scheduled for the 12th to 13th November 2020, the following are the successfully nominated candidates for the respective positions to be contested,” reads the letter addressed to the UNZALARU general secretary. “President: Andrew Phiri, Isaac D. Tembo; Deputy president: Tuesday Bwalya, Mulenga Nkula, Austin Moonga Mbozi; General Secretary: Kelvin Mambwe, Deputy General Secretary: Snib Chabala Musonda, Charity Kapenda; Treasurer: Douty Chibamba, Luka Ngoyi, Mutumbi Oyiwole Goma; Publicity Secretary: Mervis Kikonko.”
Dr Phiri is the current UNZALARU deputy president, while Isaac Tembo served as deputy secretary general in the previous executive that was defeated by the current one.
The two candidates have each made promises which they expect to fulfill once voted into office.
Dr Phiri has promised to “lead the negotiations for wages that are commensurate with the real value we create for the university and the dignified lives we must live”.
“I am standing for election to the office of president of UNZALARU because I am committed to securing the independence and integrity of our union and advancing the wellbeing of the membership. This is a defining moment in the history of our union, and whom we elect as our president may determine the fate of UNZALARU,” he said in his manifesto. “The last four years have adequately prepared me for the duties of the office of president. By…of my office, I have been working silently, allowing the president and the general secretary to be the public voice of the union. In practice, I have been central to defending and advancing the union’s objectives from behind the scenes.”
Dr Phiri said going by such background he was already tested.
“Together with you the membership, I have been tested. We have gone through difficult and challenging times. I was part of the team that served your interests, amidst significant obstacles, and overcame the adversity that was thrown at us,” Dr Phiri said. “We still have difficulties ahead, to be clear. We have work to complete. But I am fired up and ready to go. I offer my hand of service to you. I request you to take it and entrust me with your vote on 13 November 2020.”
Dr Phiri also promised to protect UNZALARU from negative political influences like most unions have become.
“Zambia is going through an extremely difficult time. Almost everywhere, there are negative political influences that are weakening institutions that are supposed to be independent. Because of the economic circumstances we find ourselves in, we cannot afford to have a union leadership that would be easily compromised by the leadership of the university and country,” Dr Phiri said. “The confluence of historical forces demands that we have an extremely independent UNZALARU if its core objectives are to be achieved. I have proved that I have the capacity and decency to steer the ship in the right direction. I pledge to protect and defend the independence of the Union.”
He has also promised to maintain the union’s voice on relevant national matters.
“The voices of institutions like UNZALARU are needed on national matters more than at any time. Over the last few years, UNZALARU has gained the respect of the wider society because it has provided timely and authoritative commentaries on issues of public interest beyond the immediate concerns of its members. Our voice has been heard on key issues such as Bill 10 and the implications that it would have on workers and indeed our national democratic traditions,” Dr Phiri said. “We have been able to play this role effectively because of our intellectual wealth and objectivity and we have relied on the expertise of our diverse membership. It is absolutely important to preserve this reputation that UNZALARU has earned in public imagination and ensure that we continue to speak strongly in a non- partisan fashion on relevant matters of national importance.”
He pledged to keep UNZALARU free from corrupt influence.
“Our academic lives can only thrive if those of us in academia ably address ourselves to wider social concerns and link our own struggles to those of other social movements,” said Dr Phiri. “If elected president, I pledge to uphold this rich tradition, make sure that UNZALARU remains free from the corrupting influences around us, and defend the right of our individual members to offer intelligent and informed comments on public issues.”
Dr Tembo has equally made promises, among them pushing for stabilisation of pay date for salaries, and for the payment of pensions and gratuities of UNZALARU members.
His manifesto further promises to ensure that lecturers who live in UNZA houses also receive housing allowances.
“[I will] improve the staff welfare in terms of health, land empowerment, Liempe plot title deeds and UNZA nursery plots caveat,” reads Dr Tembo’s more inward-looking manifesto.
And for the position of treasurer one contender, Mutumbi Goma, also served in the previous executive in the same post.
He was defeated by Dr Ngoyi, the incumbent. Dr Chibamba is the leading challenger, who is promising investment and innovation.