NAREP president Elias Chipimo has urged members of parliament to vote on principle rather than on partisan lines when it comes to matters affecting majority Zambians.

On Wednesday, Kapiri Mposhi UPND member of parliament Stanley Kakubo moved a private member’s motion in Parliament, that the House urges government to rescind its decision to abolish the payment of meal allowances to students at public universities but it failed after 81 members of parliament voted against the motion, defeating 58 MPs who were in support.

And Minister of General Education David Mabumba, who was acting Minister of Higher Education, said the motion was incompetent, inappropriate and was informed by a fraudulent intention to incite students against government.

But in an interview with News Diggers! Thursday, Chipimo wished MPs could vote on principle.

“The problem we have is that when you belong to a party, there are implications if you don’t follow the party line. That’s why we always respect people who break party lines, morality drives them, usually they will fall out of favour from that particular party. We pray that we will have more people that will stand up and vote on principle rather than just on partisan lines,” he said.

Chipimo observed with the abolishment of meal allowances, many students from poor backgrounds would suffer.

“Reality is that most of these young people do not have independent means and many of them come from backgrounds which without that support, they will struggle. If they are going to struggle that means that their studies will suffer. A comprehensive scholarship is necessary. They (government) should not have prioritized this as an area for cost reduction if they have budget constraints. They should have prioritized these areas which are highly consumptive and not helping the country,” he said.

“Those highly consumptive areas which are not helping the country are actually the areas where the ministers themselves are the biggest culprits. They spend a lot of money on travel, allowance, they are very wasteful in terms of their fuel, so these are the areas where they should have demonstrated leadership by saying ‘let’s try and have an overall reduction on waste in the civil service generally, we can tight our belts there and lead by an example as ministers then we can put in place a plan to how we will restructure the funding of students at tertiary institutions’.”

Chipimo said government should have at least given the students notice so that they prepare themselves before carrying out that action.

“And if there is a serous shortfall even after they put in place those measures, you then need to give notice, you give students adequate time so that they can start to prepare. And you hope that during that time, the economy has picked up [and] people have jobs,” he said.

And on Mabumba’s remarks that Kakubo’s motion was incompetent, inappropriate and was informed by a fraudulent intention to incite students against government, Chipimo said the opposition should be given the right to champion issues on behalf of citizens because that’s their role in society.

“We need to understand what the real issue is here. Whether students are incited or not, its not the issue. The issue is that, ‘should the students who are sponsored by the State continue to receive meal allowance’? The problem is we try and make everything political. These are just real issues, the politicians champion them because other people don’t have a voice so they have to obviously work through the politicians. The PF itself rose to prominence on the back of pushing the agenda for the ordinary Zambians. All the opposition must be given the right to do exactly the same thing because that’s their role in society,” said Chipimo.