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December 17, 2017

Showdown looms in KNUT as Nzili demands Sossion’s resignation

Kenya National Union of Teachers chairman Mudzo Nzili and secretary general Wilson Sossion during a press briefing at KNUT House in Nairobi, February 28, 2017. /VICTOR IMBOTO
Kenya National Union of Teachers chairman Mudzo Nzili and secretary general Wilson Sossion during a press briefing at KNUT House in Nairobi, February 28, 2017. /VICTOR IMBOTO

Controversy surrounding the retirement of KNUT chairman Mudzo Nzili took a twist on Monday after he demanded secretary general Wilson Sossion’s resignation.

On Sunday, Nzili defied Sossion's directive to take a six-month terminal leave pending his retirement in May next year.

He said Sossion has no legal mandate to issue such a directive as he is a nominated Member of Parliament.

"Having served in the union for a considerable period of time, you are well aware that as a matter of common practice and custom, the union does not mix national party politics with teachers’ professional issues. KNUT is a professional union," Nzili said in a letter to Sossion.

He said the SG should leave office so deputy Hesbon Otieno to take charge.

The turn of events has exposed a deepening supremacy contest between the leaders of the Kenya National Union of Teachers.

Sossion and Nzili's power struggle dates back to 2013 following the death of the then secretary general Fred Outa. 

It had been expected that Nzili would take over as he had been the deputy Sossion, was as national chairman at the time, resigned and insisted on squaring it out with Nzili in a by-election. He won. 

Sossion said it is mandatory for senior KNUT officers to take a six-month terminal leave prior to their retirement.

The union's constitution required officials to forfeit their seats upon attaining age 60.

Sossion quoted Article XVIII (E) of the constitution, which states: "Any union official shall cease to hold office upon attaining the age of sixty (60) years, upon resigning by notice in writing to the National Executive Council (NEC) or Branch Executive Committee (BEC), dies, or is removed by vote at an annual Delegates Conference (ADC) or special Conference.”

The Article however makes no mention of the mandatory leave clause which Sossion insisted Nzili must obey.

He nevertheless stated: "Six months prior to the retirement, an officer is granted terminal leave pending retirement. At this point, the union must plan a by-election in the preceding ADC or AGM," Sossion said.

In an apparent reference to Nzili, the SG said Article XVIII of the union's constitution was an amendment that was crafted specifically to contain officials who frustrated smooth and decent exit from office.

In Nzili's absence, Sossion said second vice chairman Wycliffe Omucheyi will assume office in acting capacity pending his confirmation at the ADC on December 13.

More on this: Omuchei to take over as KNUT chairman after Mudzo Nzili's exit

Also read: KNUT not affiliated to NASA, Nzili says after Sossion nomination

'SOSSION'S OATH SYMBOLISED RESIGNATION'

Nzili however remained adamant that directives from Sossion are null and void as he is now a state officer.

"Therefore, in exercise of powers granted to my office under Article VI of the KNUT Constitution, and in accordance with the national constitution of the republic of Kenya, be informed that you were deemed to have resigned from your position as secretary general the moment you took oath as an officer of the state."

Nzili said Sossion was acting in contravention of a circular he issued to union officials prior to the August 8 election, asking them to leave office if they wanted to join politics.

"Your failure to regularise your resignation notwithstanding, you are hereby required to cease the exercise and conduct of office of the secretary general with immediate effect," he told Sossion.

Ten out of 30 top officials of KNUT and the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers vied and won elective seats in the election that month.

The teachers' union bagged one governor and two deputy governors seats while four KUPPET officials made if to the National Assembly and five to county assemblies.

KUPPET secretary general Akelo Misori said at the time that all their elected officials would retain their seats.

"As a union we do not have a clause that bars them from holding union seats," he said.

Sossion echoed his sentiments saying all KNUT officials who lost their bids would resume their seats at the union.

His position in office may however be contested based on a precedent set at the Employment and Labour Relations Court.

The court ruled last May that Bomet Central MP Ronald Kiprotich Tonui was not eligible to vie for the position of assistant national treasurer of KUPPET as long as he was an MP.

Judge Linet Ndolo said MPs are expected to pend a lot of time undertaking parliamentary business in committees and attending and participate in sessions of the House.

Ndolo noted they must also spend a lot of time reading in order to understand issues and attend to constituency matters.

"In a nutshell, one cannot gauge the working hours of an MP simply by looking at the hours spent in the chamber," she said.

"In my view, looking at the roles and functions assigned to MPs, they cannot be said to be part-time state officers. I therefore find that an MP is a full-time state officer."

 

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