UPND members of parliament yesterday walked out of the House after Higher Education Minister Professor Nkandu Luo charged that the opposition party caused the riots at UNZA which subsequently led to the death of fourth year student Vespers Shimuzhila.
And some PF members of parliament, led by Lands Minister Jean Kapata, hurled insults on their colleagues who took a protest walk out, branding them Satanists and suggesting a physical fight between the two camps to see who was stronger.
Meanwhile, Prof Luo has vowed that there will be no unionism in universities.
The fracas began when Prof Luo accused the UPND of causing the riots after its Choma Central MP Cornelius Mweetwa wondered whether Prof Luo thought she had been too heavy handed on the students by banning UNZASU.
“Information coming out of the university is that there was no property destroyed whatsoever by the students at UNZA, except for the police’s destruction. In the recent past, it is only under your leadership that a student has sadly died, and this follows the statements that you’ve been making that are very anti-university students’ interests. Honourable minister, don’t you think that from the time you took over as Minister of [Higher] Education, you have been too heavy handed on the students? Leading to a situation where you have banned student leaderships such as UNZASU and now a situation where when there is a demonstration or a demand, students do not know how to channel their grievances?” Mweetwa submitted before a member of the ruling party distracted him.
Mweetwa then angrily responded, telling the ruling party MP; “keep quiet you don’t know what I am talking about”.
But the Choma lawmaker’s response to his colleague angered Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly Catherine Namugula who instructed the opposition MP to take his seat as she invited the Minister of Higher Education to respond.
And in her response, Luo accused the UPND leadership of causing the riots at UNZA, which subsequently led to a loss of life.
“Madam Speaker, I would have wished that the honourable member of parliament who is asking this question would have declared interest and probably, it’s because of his leadership that we have had so much damage done to people’s property,” Prof Luo charged.
But Prof Luo’s accusations offended the UPND MPs who left the House in protest whilst Prof Luo was still responding to the question.
However, ministers and other ruling party MPs ceased the opportunity to hurl insults at their UPND colleagues as they walked out.
The MPs we heard shouting “walk out, kabiyeni! (go away)”.
And Lands Minister Jean kapata was heard saying “bye bye polio… elo beshile nabafwala nefya black (they even here came dressed in black), get out! Nabafwala nefya black kwati balewamya (they are even dressed in black like they are doing the right thing) [How can you be] politicking when someone has lost a child? Ata bane [more insults], one day members tukaiponone one by one, tukamone uwakosa ninani (one day we should beat each other up as members of parliament so that we see who is stronger). Ala imwe baice! Fi satanist (you little kids, [you are just] satanists),” said Kapata as her colleagues on the right agreed with her whilst others added their own unprintables to the fracas.
Namugala eventually managed to restore calm to the House but did not comment on the insults before resuming business.
Earlier, Prof Luo announced that management had been instructed to tighten security at the campus, identify and punish culprits.
She also announced that by 2019, UNZA would be split into several campuses as one measure of preventing riots.
“Because of this, that is why we are splitting UNZA. By 2019, UNZA will not look like it does now. As Cabinet, we have decided that the school of engineering and the school of mines will be put together and it will be called the UNZA school of engineering, belt sciences, mines and minerals and it will move away from this campus. And the school of veterinary medicine and agriculture will now become UNZA school of agriculture and veterinary sciences. The school of medicine will now be called UNZA school of medicine and health sciences and the school of education will be the only school that will remain at the University of Zambia as the UNZA college of education. The unfortunate thing is that when we made this decision, we didn’t have information that in fact, most of the riotous behaviour comes from the school of education and therefore, I will be rethinking the decision to move the school of education when we establish it as the UNZA college of education to another location,” Prof Luo said.
“The riots that are happening at the University of Zambia are not done by the population of the university students. They are actually motivated from outside. That’s why you have not heard a single statement from me regarding this riot because I want this investigated. I have never seen such a tragic incident where people take advantage and want to make a name.”
Meanwhile, when asked if she thought the absence of the union at UNZA was part of the cause of the riots, Prof Luo vowed that unionism in universities was banned and would never be reintroduced.
“I did say that the riots at UNZA are being instigated by outsiders and I am aware from our investigations in the past that the students’ union leadership or very few number of men and women were being used to actually propagate riots, I’m afraid it won’t happen at the universities,” said Prof Luo.
When asked if police had the right to teargas students’ rooms, Prof Luo also asked: “Do the students have the right to go and smash peoples’ cars?”
This prompted opposition MPs to start jeering before Namugala intervened.