Lecturers at the newly established Hwange Teachers College, are accusing their principal Dr Adam Luthuli of blatant maladministration and nepotism which they say is threatening the development and growth of Matabeleland North’s only teacher training college.
Hwange Teachers College, training primary school teachers, was established in 2019 as a satellite of Bulawayo’s United College of Education (UCE) and currently operates from the Old Thomas Coulter School.
Hwange Local Board has since allocated 17 hectares of land to the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development to build a fully-fledged institution.
At its inception, lecturers would travel from UCE to camp in Hwange while conducting lectures until new lecturers were recruited specifically for the upcoming college.
After undergoing the induction process late last year, at UCE, about 30 new lecturers were deployed to Hwange on January 4 this year.
Investigations by CITE have revealed that their four months’ stay in the coal-mining town has been unpleasant and horrible.
Members of staff who declined to be named for fear of victimisation said the way the upcoming academic institution is being run leaves a lot to be desired.
“Issues at times, if they are left untold for a long time even institutions that have a good meaning in their establishments will not at the end of the day have the intended purpose and meaning,” decried a lecturer from the college.
“We have an issue here as staff at Hwange Teachers College. There is a gentleman doubling up as the principal for both colleges (Hwange and UCE) by the name of Dr [Adam] Luthuli. Looking at the way that institution is run, if you are someone who hails from Matabeleland your heart will certainly bleed.”
He elaborated: “His (Luthuli’s) aim defeats progression towards having an institution that trains teachers in Matabeleland North. So, we are wondering if the Public Service Commission is aware of that or the Tertiary Education Council, where these institutions are going to be aligned, which was promulgated recently, or even the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission.”
The recruitment process of the lecturers and submission of requisite papers, sources said, was flawed.
For instance, we have a lady by the name Gilta Rudanda,” said the source.
“At one stage, way before the vacancies were advertised she went there to see the site and was introduced as one of the surveyors. Maybe it was for T&S purposes. But ultimately that same person is now a lecturer at Hwange Teachers College. We also hear of lecturers employed there who submitted their documents through her. So you would wonder what kind of a set-up is that.”
The lecturers said during induction, which they said was unexpectedly cut short, they were promised that their welfare would be taken care of, only to find themselves between a rock and a hard surface upon arrival in Hwange.
“There was an induction period, which we had after being appointed at UCE,” said one lecturer.
“They promised people that the college was going to organise accommodation for everyone but I am telling you people are struggling there. When we got there it was then each man for himself and Hwange is very expensive. One will be earning ZWL$30 000 and rentals hover around US$50, US$60 and US$70 when you would have left behind a family to look after.”
The lecturer further explained: “There is movement almost every two weeks or month. Lecturers have nowhere to stay. There is no accommodation but the ministry gave them some money for the structures to be built.”
Only the Vice Principal, Royal Ntini, has official accommodation catered for by the college.
He said bricks meant for the building project keep piling where the college currently operates from while lectures continue to stay in storerooms and classrooms, adding rumours have it that Rudanda whom he said has very close links with Luthuli has her accommodation catered for by the institution.
Members of staff accused Luthuli of running the institution with an iron fist disregarding the organogram at Hwange, in the process frustrating many.
“You know that in every institution for whatever has to be bought, there is a procurement or finance committee,” said one lecturer.
“In that institution (Hwange Teachers College) everything comes from UCE. All the people who are there, in the organogram are just stooges, including the Vice Principal Royal Ntini. He has no say.”
He explained further: “Quotations are raised from Hwange, they are sent to him at UCE. Being a principal for two colleges makes him think people are his. At times if he wants to victimise you, he can tell you that your quotations are wrong which then slows down the process of teacher education. He can even say he did not receive the quotations.”
Luthuli, the lecturers said, operates through his proxies led by Rudanda who inbox him on each and every issue that happens in Hwange.
“Any dissenting voice in Hwange quickly reaches Luthuli and it’s crushed through Rudanda and other proxies,” said a lecturer.
Rudanda, whom the lecturers said was recently elevated to the position of Lecturer in Charge (LIC) – English – enjoys preferential treatment and numerous benefits from Luthuli.
She is said to have recently gone away for six weeks for marking in Mazowe, having left two weeks earlier with the blessings of Luthuli. When she came back from Mazowe she is said to have found other lecturers having been incorporated into the census and the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair (ZITF) programmes. Luthuli, the lecturers said had to unprocedurally include her in the ZITF committee for financial gain – ZWL$110, 000 – after removing one staffer, Gorejena, who had complained of mild illness.
During ZITF, lecturers said they were closely monitored and phoned by Luthuli asking their whereabouts at the instigation of Rudanda.
Following her elevation, Rudanda and other LICs are said to have come up with a clocking register, which was not there when they started in January to closely monitor other lecturers at work. Lecturers said they view that as a way of further frustrating them.
They further accused Luthuli of having a tendency of insulting them through cell phone messages.
“This guy (Luthuli) has a tendency to insult lecturers, he is so foul-mouthed,” said one lecturer.
“He has in-boxed some lecturers insulting them. Lecturers make decisions as departments and if they don’t go well with Rudanda, she tells him. She told one PE (Physical Education) guy after placing lecturers into disciplines saying ‘I think you are joking that you are putting me in a discipline for sport, we are going to reverse that.’ That same evening the principal in-boxed that same lecturer telling him ‘this is not a primary school where you force lecturers to take part in sports.”
The lecturers said there was nothing that was done in Hwange without Luthuli’s involvement.
“He is the accounting officer of course but unorthodoxly,” said one lecturer.
“Directors that have visited have been told lies that the college has been fenced, but there is no fence there. There is nothing that has happened. The last time the delegation from the ministry came, it was said there should be structures by June but to date, there is not even a foundation that has been dug. Bricks are yet to be transported from the rented site to where the college will be constructed.”
He added that Luthuli made sure that ministry officials only interview their proxies, and not any other person who would probably have a dissenting voice.
“We need that college to have a substantive principal, not this one from UCE. He is not even popular with UCE lecturers,” he said.
The lecturers feel the administration of the college is killing their morale and motivation at a time when the college is set to have its inaugural graduation ceremony at year-end.
“One wonders how the academic processes are going to go as the pioneer students are about to graduate because it’s always conflict after conflict spearheaded by Rudanda and Luthuli,” said a lecturer, adding Rudanda was a headache.
Asked how authorities have responded to their accommodation and other concerns, one lecturer said they have been told they would be attended to soon.
“It’s always soon and soon for someone with good accommodation already can be everlasting,” he said.
“Some people no longer voice fear of victimisation because the guy (Luthuli) is very good at it. People are being victimised and nepotism is destroying us.”
However, Luthuli dismissed the cocktail of allegations raised against him as “twisted and unfounded fictitious stories.”
“In the first place, recruitment is not mine,” said Luthuli.
“I am not involved at all. I am not allowed to be involved.”
He said to fast-track the clearance of the lecturers following their appointment, he asked them to submit their papers at different collection points across the country’s 10 provinces, adding he advised those in the Midlands to give them to Rudanda.
Luthuli said he has known Rudanda from Gweru where both of them hail.
On Rudanda leaving two weeks earlier for marking in Mazowe and her getting preferential treatment, Luthuli said he was not aware of all that.
“Quite a number of lecturers went for ZIMSEC marking,” said Luthuli.
“I don’t know how many, but there are many. The way they left and their dates, I don’t know. All that was the responsibility of the Vice-Principal.”
The Principal said it was not true that he unprocedurally incorporated Rudanda into the ZITF committee and that he removed Gorejena from the same.
He said after the ZITF committee made its presentation at the end-of-term meeting, he suggested they should include lecturers with something to display at the exhibition, resulting in the committee members incorporating Rudanda and Passmore Moyo.
Gorejena, the Principal said, had to be replaced by Simiso Gumbo simply because she had indicated that she was unwell and would only be able to come back for the trade fair a day before the closure of the exhibition – Friday of the official opening.
He added that he never looked for the lecturers or interfered with what they were doing during the ZITF week.
Luthuli said it is not the responsibility of the college to provide accommodation to lecturers, adding only the Principal and Vice-Principal are entitled to that.
“Like any other institution, let me take for an example, any school in an urban area, the school does not provide accommodation, people look for their accommodation,” said Luthuli.
“It is always the case. Even lecturers at UCE do not stay at college, even lecturers at Hillside do not stay at college; lecturers at Bulawayo Polytechnic do not stay at college. Unfortunately, accommodation in Hwange is very expensive. That is what frustrates them.”
He however said the tertiary education Permanent Secretary, Professor Fanuel Tagwira, has since directed that lecturers’ accommodation be part of the new college set to be constructed and should be prioritised.
The Principal said the complaints from the lecturers could be driven by the fact that they are still new on the job and do not understand how colleges operate, further dismissing claims that he is too controlling and frustrates them on quotations.
“These lecturers are new and I understand them,” said Luthuli.
“Quotations are not my job and are not their job. There is an admin officer who is responsible for buying and that is the person who does quotations. Someone actually brought a bill of quantities for burglar bars and I said, ‘no, you don’t collect bills of quantities.”
He further said: “They want to do things their way and I keep on saying, ‘no, regulations don’t allow that. Then that way, if I am being too controlling, I think it is fine because everything has to be done by regulations. Well, I think I am teaching them how the job has to be done and they think I am too controlling.”
Luthuli denied that when government officials visited the college to assess progress they were only allowed to interview his proxies, arguing they never spoke to any lecturers.
“Ministry officials did not talk to any lecturers,” said Luthuli.
“The Permanent Secretary came to Hwange Teachers College and did not speak to any lecturer. I had alerted them that ‘he may want to talk to you’ but the Permanent Secretary wanted to see the site and did not address anyone if that is the case they are talking about.”
He further elaborated that when the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) visited the college, he invited lecturers living in Hwange to represent their colleagues.
“It was during the holiday and I called the lecturers who stay in Hwange to come and meet the university,” said Luthuli.
“There are three lecturers who live in Hwange, and who have always been in Hwange. So, those are the three I sent messages to, to say come and represent the lecturers. It would not have made sense to me to ask someone from Bulawayo to pay the bus fare to go to Hwange to meet UZ. I don’t know where the proxies are. If those are the proxies then that’s what they mean. Two came; one did not come. If it was the visit by the Deputy Minister, the Deputy Minister visited the college when I was not there; I don’t even know who he talked to.”
Luthuli said he believed allegations could be coming from a bitter staff member, adding he has a good working relationship with Ntini who regularly briefs him on what is happening in Hwange.
“We have a staff member who was reported to me by the Vice Principal for doing something that was not accepted,” said Luthuli.
“Then after the Vice Principal told me, the member came to my phone to tell me the story. I did not respond. I said to the Vice Principal ‘establish what exactly happened.’ Did the staff member make any arrangements for teaching while the staff member was away, were the students learning, were they given a task?”
He added: “I asked the head of the subject, were the students given a task? The head of the subject said yes they were given. I asked the students, ‘were you given a task? The students said no, then I said to the HOD (Head of Department), ‘find out whether learning took place while the member was out.’ So when I am silent somebody panics and thinks I am going to be punished by this man. Now, I see how fiction books are written. I have never written one.”
Reached out on her side of the story, Rudanda said she was not allowed to speak to the media.
“Ah, I am not allowed to speak to the press, maybe you need to call the Vice Principal,” said Rudanda.
“He (Vice Principal) is the one that can explain that better to you.”
Ntini however also dismissed as unfounded all the allegations levelled against his superior saying they have a good working relationship.
“I am the Vice-Principal, who is on the ground, who is seeing the day-to-day-day operations of the college but I report to Dr Luthuli, who is the principal,” Ntini told CITE.
“Personally, I have a good working relationship with Dr Luthuli. I report to him. We share ideas. We make decisions. I chair the academic board meetings, I chair the general staff meetings. He has also allowed me to make some appointments. I don’t agree with the view that he is interfering.”
He went on to dismiss the claim that Rudanda had initially been introduced as a surveyor and that her recruitment was not transparent.
“That one is the worst lie I have ever heard in life,” said Ntini.
“This is the most well-orchestrated fictitious story I have ever heard. She (Rudanda) went through the interview process…. and the idea of her being a surveyor makes me want to laugh my lungs out. She is a teacher by profession, she has been working for MOPSE (Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education).”
He said Luthuli was not involved in the selection of LICs, adding it was his responsibility.
“Allegations could have been motivated by someone who wanted to be part of leadership. No one is bypassing me and I have enough authority. I make decisions.”
The much-awaited construction of the college, Luthuli said, would begin once the requisite paperwork has been finalised.
“We don’t have any architectural designs yet,” he said. Some other organisation appointed by the Ministry is doing the architectural designs so there is no way construction can go on without architectural designs. Our desire is that construction should begin by June and our beginning by June is all dependent on drawings. All we can do is gather sand and bricks.”
Numerous attempts to get comments from Higher and Tertiary Education Minister Amon Murwira and the Permanent Secretary for the same Fanuel Tagwira could not yield any result as their phones went unanswered.