The Zambia Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) says it is arrogant for Higher Education Minister Professor Nkandu Luo to tell UNZA and CBU lecturers to resign if they are not happy with the conditions at the two institutions.
And ZCTU has advised President Edgar Lungu not to follow Professor Luo’s “bad heart”.
Speaking when he featured on Hot FM’s Hot Seat programme, Thursday, ZCTU deputy secretary general Elastone Njobvu, said the trade union would continue encouraging workers to protest whenever they were oppressed by their employers.
He also complained that Professor Luo was a tired and recycled politician who should resign on moral grounds.
“Professor Luo said ‘lecturers who are not happy with the conditions in the universities should resign because we can easily replace them!’ That is total arrogance, coming from a highly-educated person and a senior government official! That’s not a spirit of leadership, it is wrong for a Minister to talk like that. A leader in a civilized society, in a Christian nation…And most of these people, we see them in churches! Which God do they worship? Which Christianity do they embrace? If they can say things like that?” Njobvu asked.
“And she, herself, she stems from the era of the MMD, so maybe she is tired and recycled politician who needs to resign! Who needs to step down on moral grounds! I saw her on TV yesterday (Wednesday), unless those images were fake, but I trust ZNBC because they report and speak for government, so what I saw there was genuine. When she was at ZIBSIP, and the Head of state had a heart to say: ‘I wanted to meet the students, but when I saw what was broken, I decided not to see them.’ And Professor Luo was actually nodding her head and smiling, and then the Head of State said: ‘with this, we can close the two public universities, UNZA and CBU!’ And Professor Luo was nodding her head, smiling! I want to appeal to the Head of State, to have a human heart. I want to speak to the heart of President Lungu not to follow the bad hearts of some Ministers around him; he should be able to stand aside and act as a father to be able to say: ‘I forgive.’ Mr. President, don’t follow the spirit of Professor Luo, it is a divisive spirit! And speaking in the context of higher education, we are going down as a country and that must not be tolerated.”
And Njobvu lamented that bad people were running the country, hence the numerous challenges.
“Certain bad people have clipped into the system of our governance and when I say bad people, I just mean it. Because the Bible says: ‘when a good person or good persons rule, the people are happy. When a bad, wicked person or persons rule, the people are oppressed!’ So, this kind of oppression, where you start permitting workers to be beaten, must come to an end,” Njobvu demanded.
“Let me also condemn the action by some of our members, to go and dump garbage at the door steps of the Civic Centre. Workers have the right to protest, but they must be peaceful. But that’s what anger can do, that’s what oppression can do. And it’s a clear warning of what people power can do; a hungry person is an angry person! So, government leaders must take that as a warning. It may not even have been planned that that’s what they can do, but anger can excite people to do the worst of things. And it’s important not to underplay what we saw. And government officials should not be used to party cadres to be attacking workers who were protesting as provided by the law when things are not right at their work place.”
He added that the ZCTU would continue encouraging workers to protest whenever they were oppressed by their employers.
“And as a trade union, we are encouraging our workers to protest when things are not right in their work places, but they must protest in a civilized manner in order not to attract arrests. But it should be a warning that when you squeeze people, they are bound to react!” Njobvu cautioned.
“You want people to work for nothing? Like Professor Luo wants university lecturers to work for nothing, technical lecturers to work for nothing?”
He further said that government was encouraging foreign private companies to exploit and abuse workers by not paying its workers on time.
“Government is leading by bad example! When Avic (International) is abusing the workers, not respecting the workers’ rights, when Lamasat or Trade Kings or mines are oppressing workers, where are they going to run to? It is the Ministry of Labour, which is government. So, when government is not doing the right thing, they are not paying their workers on time, what do you expect of other companies? So, it is our duty to encourage our members to protest, and it is provided for in the law,” said Njobvu.