I’m going nowhere, embattled Knut boss Sossion declares
Irene Githinji and Githinji Mwangi
Embattled Kenya National Union of Teachers (Knut) secretary-general Wilson Sossion was last evening walking a tightrope as he made frantic efforts to save his job.
Rebellious members of the Knut National Executive Council (NEC) vowed to proceed with a meeting to dislodge Sossion from office today despite an injunction he obtained from the Employment and Labour Relations Court stopping the deliberations.
Sossion’s last-minute efforts to seek Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga’s intervention in his woes seemed to have come too late as the Teachers Service Commission (TSC) did not deduct the monthly union dues from teachers for the third month running.
“The August payslips are out and indicate that the TSC did not deduct the union dues from members,” said a top Knut official who declined to be officially quoted.
Matters appeared to take a downward trend for Sossion as the Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) invited disgruntled Knut members to join their union.
Kuppet secretary general Akello Misori, who said Kuppet had enrolled 18,000 new members from Knut by Tuesday, said his union’s doors remained open for more members from the rival union.
“We empathise with teachers who are anxious about their union status, and urge them to join Kuppet without hesitation. Kuppet’s progressive record speaks for itself. Kuppet is indeed the union of the moment,” he said.
Yesterday, a section of Knut NEC officials vowed to defy Sossion’s postponement of today’s meeting, saying their agenda is clearly cut out; to pass a vote of no-confidence in the secretary general.
In an apparent reaction to the rival officials, Sossion issued a notice closing the Knut national offices from yesterday until Tuesday, ostensibly to give staff time off to take their children back to school.
“The closure of the offices is to allow members of staff to make necessary arrangements for their children and dependants to resume school for the third term considering the current financial situation in Knut,” read an internal memo released by Sossion.
The Knut boss remained unbowed, vowing not to relinquish his seat even as he accused unnamed powerful government officials and politicians of orchestrating his woes.
Waving a court order, Sossion maintained that a NEC meeting will only happen once all the contentious issues facing the union are resolved.
“Let them know that there will be no meeting at Mfangano Street; we have taken measures to stop that. Let them know that I am going nowhere. I am not a slay queen to be exchanged for money,” a defiant Sossion told journalists, without elaborating.
He told TSC to keep off Knut affairs and remit union dues amounting to Sh280 million for the months of June, July and August, as well as obey all court rulings delivered in favour of the union.
“Today we have obtained orders outlawing any purported meeting. However, we know that some people are still being persuaded with money to attend a meeting. We know that today’s purported meeting is well orchestrated and a well-funded activity by a few individuals,” he said.
Addressing a news conference at Parliament Buildings, Sossion claimed some powerful individuals have been dishing out money to mobilise individuals to attend the meeting.
He termed as “orchestrated propaganda” claims that some Knut members had quit to join Kuppet, adding that this was aimed at diverting the attention of teachers to “non-issues”.
“For now I am the bona fide elected SG and I am not quitting any time soon. Tell them to keep off Knut as the only people who can remove me from office are those who elected me,” he said.
Sossion claimed the plot to sack him has been hatched to have a “weak person”, who can be manipulated, take over.
Should the disputed meeting proceed, insiders said anti-Sossion NEC members plan to install his deputy Hesbon Otieno, as the new secretary general.
Among those who insisted that the disputed meeting will go on is Nyeri branch executive secretary Zachary Mathenge, who said the meeting is not anchored on a clause that requires Sossion to sanction it.
Instead, Mathenge said, it is anchored on clauses which call for requisition, which means that if a requisition is signed by more than four members the secretary general has no option but oblige and call a meeting.
Already, the Nyeri branch official said eight NEC members had signed a requisition or a demand that Sossion calls a meeting. Also, the rebel group said they were yet to be served with the court injunction.
Mathenge blamed Sossion for the problems facing the union, including TSC’s decision not to remit union dues.
He said Sossion had gone against provisions of the labour movement that provide for negotiations, not placing demands, unilateral decisions and outbursts.
“He does not have negotiating skills, does not consult and makes his own decisions. We need to release Sossion and let him go to Parliament to focus on legislation and we can have a sober secretary general,” he added.
Kirinyaga County executive secretary Javan Wachira said NEC members would meet at Knut House and their sole agenda is to remove Sossion from office. “He can do us a great favour by resigning today (yesterday) and allow us elect a new SG. Teachers will not allow any person or group of individuals to kill the giant teachers union since it is bigger than any individual.”