Civil Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA) Chairperson Bishop John Mambo says the dissolution of the student unions at the University of Zambia and Copperbelt University among others is undemocratic and must be reversed forthwith.

And Bishop Mambo has demanded that government must immediately resume payment of meal allowances to students.

In a statement today, Bishop Mambo observed that it was absurd for Higher Education Minister Professor Nkandu Luo to wantonly infringe on the academic independence and freedom of students without being censured by her appointing authority.

“CiSCA strongly condemns the high-handedness and brutal manner in which the police have of late been handling the public but in particular students’ affairs and grievances. A case in point is the recent incident at the Copperbelt University where the police brutally quelled a students’ demonstration, and the Ministry of Higher Education’s decision to dissolve the students’ union and suspend union activities at the same institutions. The disproportionate brutality exhibited by the police is contrary to Article 15 of our Bill of Rights which prohibits any public officer to subject anyone to torture, or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment,” Bishop Mambo stated

“CiSCA wants to remind the State that the right to be protected from this right is non-derogable even in situations of threatened state of emergence (Article 31) or real emergence, Article 30. The police must be reminded that, constitutionally under Article 193, they are mandated to uphold the Bill of Rights, and then maintaining law and order which seems to be their only pre-occupation is not about brutalizing citizens or instilling fear in citizens.”

He expressed disappointment with the PF government’s alleged lack of interest in supporting higher education in Zambia.

“Academic independence and freedom is a legal matter protected by an Act of Parliament and it is unfortunate and absurd for the Minister of Higher Education to wantonly infringe on this freedom without being censored by the appointing authority whose legal mind is supposed to be value adding to his office and his role, but sadly, this has not been the case so far. Issues of food on which the students’ demonstrations are anchored on the fundamental right to life, survival and development and must be upheld and respected by both the police and the Minister of Higher Education rather than being suppressed through sheer brutality,” Bishop Mambo stated.

“CiSCA is disappointed to note the lack of interest in supporting higher education in this country by the current PF government who seem to be keen to keep citizens uneducated and ignorant even going to the extent of abrogating the constitution and disregarding fundamental human rights. In this regard, CiSCA calls on all Zambian citizens to support the affected parents and students to take action in order to safeguard the right to education. Among these actions, we recommend reporting the matter to the Police Public Complaint Commission whose mandate is to “receive and investigate complaints against police action among other functions in accordance with Article 237 of the Constitution of Zambia.”

And Bishop Mambo reminded prof Luo that the funds used to pay meal allowances for students were not her personal resources but public resources.

“The dissolution of the student unions at the University of Zambia and Copperbelt University, among others is undemocratic and must be reversed forthwith. It is amazing how a government that claims to be dedicated to respect the rule of law and the Constitution, can turn the nation’s police service into a brutalizing machine happy to smash any form of freedom of expression even among the student populace whom the 7th National Development Plan, launched with such fanfare, hails as the country’s demographic dividend. CiSCA demands that the Minister of Higher Education reinstates the student meal allowance immediately without any negotiation. The funds used are public resources and not her personal resources that she can decide to do as she pleases at the expense of the development of citizens of this country. She is educated because the state invested in her education and it is moral bankruptcy on her part to use her authority to deny citizens a right she has already enjoyed herself,” stated Bishop Mambo.