Higher Education Minister Nkandu Luo says some members of the Copperbelt University Students Union have been suspended for causing riots by allegedly feeding their colleagues with lies regarding the payment of meal allowances.
And Professor Luo says as the University of Zambia reopens, the ministry will set intelligence officers on students so that government can be aware when politicians recruit them to cause chaos.
Meanwhile, Prof Luo has condemned the brutal manner in which police raided and arrested CBU students on Friday.
Responding to questions after issuing a ministerial statement on the situation at CBU today, Prof Luo denied suspending student union activities at CBU but admitted doing so at UNZA and Mulungushi University.
She also announced that some members of COBUSU had been suspended for causing riots.
“I did say that we did suspend the activities of the students union at the University of Zambia and the students union at Mulungishi University and at no time did I say we suspended the activities of COBUSU. COBUSU has been operating and the communication that was given to the students at Copperbelt University was done through the leadership of COBUSU. It is only now after this and after being convinced that this whole riot was perpetrated through the leadership that the union members were suspended,” Prof Luo said.
“I am not a Minister of BC (allowances) but a minister to look after every single welfare of the students and we are consulting at the moment with students from different universities so that we have an agreed position and we want to agree on how we are going to manage the affairs of the institutions, I will come to this August House and read a ministerial statement…since it is clear that some of the union members were responsible for the riots by deliberately misinforming their membership, and this action resulted in the riots, some of the union members have been suspended and an interim body comprising of six members of the students judiciary body has been instituted to further students interface with management. This will help instill a sense of responsibility in the students with regard to their mandate as student leaders and representatives. The management has also cautioned the office of the Dean of students with regard to casual treatment of matters relating to students welfare as this is the office that is key in interfacing with the students.”
And Prof Luo said government would set intelligence officers on UNZA students in order to know their every move.
“As this is now fully aware, violence protests has in the past been almost precipitated by external influences and indications are that a lot of external influence to drive personal agenda have been the occurrence at CBU last week…students should not be involved in any riots and I want to beg you my colleagues, play your politics outside the universities. I don’t want to get to a point where I am going to ban branches at universities. So if you continue it will lead me to that. In fact, Mr Speaker let me also take advantage that before University of Zambia opens, I have sent the students’ intelligence to find out the people that are being recruited by name and by the school so that [they] inform the management to be trailing these students so that we know what activities they are involved in because we don’t want this to happen at the University of Zambia,” Prof Luo said.
And Prof Luo condemned the manner in which police officers manhandled CBU students during the riots.
“On the evening of Friday 18th December, a small click of students went to the Blue gums area and started stoning the police that passed by around at 23:00 hours. Efforts to identify these students have not yielded fruits because I am told this click wore masks. During the Tuesday 5th December protests, there were two students who were injured, one fell while running and the second one developed an allergic reaction as a result of inhailing teargas fumes. The student who had an allergic reaction was admitted in Kitwe’s teaching hospital and was discharged the following day,” she said.
“I did receive those reports that 12 students had died. I did send independent people to go and find out and the investigations proved that there were no student that had died. However, Mr Speaker, I must condemn in uncertain terms, the manner in which police handled the students. And this is why, Mr Speaker, I have said it before in this House that I would like to stop these riots in the institutions of higher learning especially that the ones who suffer the most are girls. And usually they are found in their rooms sleeping and the police pull them out, sometimes they pull people out in boxer shorts. Obviously somebody in a boxer short can’t be on the streets rioting.” she said.
Asked what action government would take against the officers in question, Prof Luo said she was yet to engage the Ministry of Home Affairs on the matter.
“I am actually following up because I want first of all to get students who were wearing masks, identified. And I was waiting for honorable [Stephen] Kampyongo and we had a discussion yesterday because I would like us to work together and deal with this matter. I am totally unhappy and I have been unhappy and I have said this many times on the floor of this House that I don’t like these riots. And I want to use this advantage to speak to the politicians here, they know themselves, the one who was behind the Al-Shabab group at Kitwe campus knows himself. Please desist from taking trouble to institutions of higher learning,” she said.
She disclosed the reasons that led to late payment of meal allowances to students.
“The protests were over perceived delays in payment of meal allowances for term two of the Copperbelt University. This August House may wish to note that the Copperbelt University riverside campus opened for term two on 19th November 2017 while the students at the medical school at Ndola campus opened school a bit earlier. Payment of allowances started at the medical school in Ndola because the leadership there had requested that since they had been in school longer, it was only proper to start the payment with them. This information was communicated to the leadership of Copperbelt University known as COBUSU riverside campus,” said Prof Luo.
“Despite the fact that government had commenced payment of allowances to the students at CBU starting with the students at Ndola campus, the students’ leadership at riverside campus decided to misinform the students populace at riverside campus through their publicity secretary to paste the information on the board saying that government had no money hence will delay payment of BC. And this was not true reflection of what government had communicated. Upon reading this communication, the students then started agitating and this led to the violence on 5th November 2017.”