Higher Education Permanent Secretary Mabvuto Sakala says his ministry is only a conduit of resources from the Ministry of Finance to public universities, adding that the running of higher learning institutions is the responsibility of management who should explain the delayed salaries to lecturers.

And University of Zambia Students Union (UNZASU) president Warran Hamusunga says government is waiting for students to erupt into protests so that authorities can find an excuse to close the institution after failing to pay lecturers salaries.

Meanwhile UNZALARU president Dr Evance Lampi says Lecturers, who are yet to get their February salaries, would continue with their go-slow until their money is paid.

When contacted for an update on the UNZA and Copperbelt University situation, the Higher Education Permanent Secretary said the ministry was not directly involved in the running of the public universities, and referred questions to the Ministry of Finance and university management.

“Why are you talking on behalf of the students? If the students want a word from me they should contact me. And the Universities are run by the university management, why do you want to get a word from the ministry? Do we run the universities honestly? There is a vice chancellor, there is the registrar, there are deans there, now how do you want a comment from the ministry? We have how many public universities? We have got maybe 9 public universities, we don’t run them, we have put managers to run them, so those are the people who will give you a comment, contact them,” said Sakala.

“So if they have told you that they are waiting for funds from the Ministry of Finance, what other answer can I give apart from what they have said? You can talk to the Ministry of Finance because us we are just a conduit, we only get money from the Ministry of Finance, we give it to the institutions. Because I can say yes then the Ministry of Finance maybe has got a different position, maybe they have already released the money. So if you want a comment, get it from the Ministry of Finance or the university management, that is why we pay them money to manage those universities on behalf of the ministry. Now if they are going to be referring every query to our ministry that would be very unfair.”

And the UNZASU leader said he had guided his students to remain calm as any disturbance of peace would be used as an excuse by government to close the institution.

“Students are crying for meal allowances which they have not yet been paid and now the issue of lecturers on goes slow, it’s a double impact. It’s like government is forcing the students to make noise so that whatever will happen on campus, the ministry of higher education can say we are closing the institution indefinitely because students have rioted. When in the actual sense they know that it is them who are supposed to pay the lecturers. If they want to close the institution they should just close because there are no funds to pay the lecturers, than waiting for students to make noise so that it can be a scapegoat for them to close the institution,” said Hamusunga.

“We have told the students that stay calm so that we see the how the situation will be with this matter. We have been told by the Vice chancellor that maybe the funds might be ready before the end of today (Monday). And we told them that we don’t want this institution at this particular time to be closed with an excuse that students have rioted, no! We are not going to support riotous behaviour, we have told the students to remain calm so that if they close the institution it should be based on the fact that the ministry of Higher Education or whosoever is responsible to pay lecturers and students’ meal allowances, have failed to do that.”

UNZALARU Dr Lampi said lecturers would continue with the go-slow until they are paid their money.

“The situation is becoming worse because they did not pay the salaries they promised on Friday. Government promised that they would pay on Friday last week but they have not been paid. As I am talking now, people are just dispersing, there was another protest. People have gone to look for money to survive. And as workers, they have told us that they will report as and when they have money, it’s not business as usual. We also want to advise government, can you please prioritise education in the country! You are wasting money on all these things including by-elections but failing to honour your obligation of paying workers who are training the country’s workforce,” Dr. Lampi said.

“This is a clear indication of the values of this government. If it’s the external debt that you are transferring to us as workers then it’s very unfortunate. You cannot be subjecting workers to pay the external debt by not paying them that is very dangerous for the country’s development.”