University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers Union (UNZALARU) secretary general Dr Kelvin Mambwe says Minister of Higher Education Professor Nkandu Luo is a failure with a track record of causing confusion in all Ministries she served in the past.

And Dr Mambwe says lecturers at UNZA cannot easily be replaced, as Luo threatened, arguing that in fact, the Higher Education Minister’s position is more easily replaced than a university lecturer.

Meanwhile, UNZA management has told workers that it has no capacity to pay March salaries because government stopped funding the institution two months ago.

According to a notice to UNZALARU members, Dr Mambwe disclosed that management held a two hours meeting where it explained it’s incapacity to meet the workers wages.

“On Monday, 8 April 2019, the three University of Zambia unions held a meeting with the University Management over the delayed payment of March salaries. The meeting lasted for about 2 hours. In explaining the reasons for the delayed salaries, management informed the unions that it has no capacity to pay workers because the government has for the past two months failed to remit to the University the monthly grants as well as the tuition fees for those students sponsored by the Government. This position has consequently affected management’s ability to pay salaries, as the internally generated resources are insufficient to address the problem,” read the notice.

“Unfortunately, there is no hope that the government will honour its obligation this week. In the same meeting, management requested the unions to give it up to Monday next week to lobby the government to release the much delayed grants and outstanding tuition fees. We will issue another update on this matter next week or earlier.”

And Speaking when he featured on UNZA Radio’s Lusaka Star Programme, Tuesday, Dr Mambwe complained that Prof Luo was known for her confrontational way of doing things, adding that she spent her time quarrelling with chiefs and headmen when she served as Minister of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs.

He also revealed that UNZA lecturers had not yet been paid their March salaries.

“We have not received any explanation from government, from the Minister of Higher Education except threats of resignation, deregistration and so on. Those are the only things we are receiving from her. This is a crisis, which requires the intervention from the higher offices. Yes, the Minister of Higher Education has failed! Tell me which Ministry she superintended upon which has succeeded? She was at the Ministry of Chiefs, she spent all her time quarrelling with chiefs saying; ‘this one has been de-gazetted’, the other day she is arguing with that headman’ that was it. There was nothing she brought to the Ministry of Chiefs. She was in MMD, she was taken to the Ministry of Local Government and Housing, the only thing she did there which we remember her for, was to paint the public buses blue; that’s the only thing! Tell me if there is anything that you can remember Nkandu Luo for? She was at the Ministry of Health, she did those useless reforms, which are now defunct, she took all the doctors away from UTH into administration. She is a failure!” Dr Mambwe said.

“And I don’t understand why the President has continued to keep her in that portfolio. Yes, we stand with CBU to ask for the removal of this woman if she can’t resign on moral grounds because she has failed lamentably! She has been in the Ministry for two years, what has she done? Nothing!”

And Dr. Mambwe says lecturers at UNZA cannot easily be replaced as Prof Luo threatened.

“You cannot just get anyone from the street and let them come and work here. A lecturer, a professor is trained over time to be the best at what they do. For someone to be an expert in their area they have to work for some time, they have to possess certain qualifications. We are not an easy cadre to replace and Nkandu Luo should know that! She is a failed Minster and I repeat; she is a failure, and this can be demonstrated; you look back to her past, what has she done in those Ministries where she was a Minster? Nothing! And in fact, I don’t know why the President is taking long to get rid of her, she is tarnishing the image of their party, she is tarnishing the image of government because of her approach in doing things. If government is having problems, why can’t she come and explain to us, other than threatening us?” Dr Mambwe wondered.

“Let me tell her if she is listening; that her threats will go nowhere! We are not cowed by threats. You can fire me today; tomorrow, I will get a job. Her job can easily be replaced, my job cannot easily be replaced, that is a fact! A lecturer, an academic, cannot be replaced easily. Yes, you can replace me with someone else, but that someone won’t have the experience I have, that person won’t have the same qualifications that I have. So, to talk about resignation and for this to come from a Minster, is a joke of a century!”

He also rubbished Luo’s call to lecturers to resign if they were unhappy over their salary delays.

“When you hear such statements coming from top offices of this country, you get worried because these statements are in themselves counterproductive. The Minister herself has failed to honour the obligation. Government is highly responsible for the failures that we are experiencing at UNZA. Those threats just as we described them earlier, they are jokes! There is no way you can ask me to resign if you failed to pay me, if you failed to pay what belongs to me; that is symptomatic of failure on your part,” he insisted.

“In fact, I would say that our Minister is ignorant, she is a very ignorant Minister and that’s why you hear such statements coming from her. She’s a person who doesn’t understand what Higher Education is all about, she is still learning. It is very sad that a Minister of her stature, who once served as head of department in one of the departments here, can be telling lecturers to resign because they have not been paid. Would she do the same thing, for example, if she was not paid her mid-term gratuity, which I know they are busy preparing, they will soon be getting these mid-term gratuities on time. If it was not paid to her on time, would she resign if we asked her to resign as MP? I think rationality is lacking in our Minister.”

He said some lecturers were defaulting on their loans because of delayed salaries.

“Today is 9th (April) and we have not been paid, we have some of our members who have loans running with different banks, because of the delay of their salaries, they incurred double deductions and the same thing will happen this month! If this continues, our members will be going home with nothing and they won’t live a decent life,” lamented Dr Mambwe.

“The current situation does not even require to take a step, it is self-explanatory. How do you expect me to find my way here if I am not paid? I stay in Chongwe; do you want me to hike, with my PhD in order to find myself in class? The situation is telling itself; if you don’t pay, ‘kulibe nchito!’ I have to find other means of sustaining my family.”