National Restoration Party (NAREP) president Elias Chipimo says it is sad that President Edgar Lungu has been reshuffling his Cabinet for political reasons and nothing else.

And Chipimo says Higher Education Minister Dr Brian Mushimba should first win the trust of lecturers and student bodies as he works on revamping the higher education sector.

Chipimo, in an interview Monday, however commended President Lungu for appointing Dr Bwalya Ngandu as Minister of Finance.

“It’s sad that we are reshuffling but we are only doing that for political reasons and not for developmental and economic reasons. There needed to be some fresh blood. I think that the decisions around Ministry of Finance have been positive. I certainly want to commend the president for having appointed Dr Bwalya Ng’andu to be Minister of Finance. And his connection with the Bank of Zambia will create a good platform for managing some of the challenges that we are facing which somehow we are not able to properly manage. So I think this is a new start. It may be a bit late but it’s never too late to do the right thing,” Chipimo said.

He said the transfer of Professor Nkandu Luo from Higher Education could “probably improve chances of a better outcome for the higher education sector”.

“It seems that there was a misalignment of capabilities with the task that was there. The confusion that reigned in the higher education sector is something that could not be handled successfully by the minister. So reshuffle had to happen. I believe that putting in Brian Mushimba as Minister for Higher Education will probably improve the chances of a better outcome for the higher education sector. This is somebody who is useful and more directly connected to the issues that are confronting these young students,” Chipimo said.

He urged Dr Mushimba to look at innovative ways of raising resources for the higher education sector without over-taxing citizens.

“There is a challenge of resources and there must be some innovative ways, without taxing the people unnecessarily [because] we are already overtaxed…But if Brian Mushimba is thoughtful and takes his responsibility seriously, he will understand that most universities and the best universities actually generate a lot of money from research. You need to improve the quality of the research coming out of the universities which is essentially conducted by lecturers. And those research funds are what raise funds for the universities,” Chipimo said.

“And I think he has that potential. But if he looks through this with his political eyes, then I am afraid we will not get any solutions. He has to win the trust of the lecturers of these institutions. He also has to win the trust of the student body within these institutions. And one of the things that he has to do is to reverse some of those decisions and find creative ways of generating user incomes for these institutions. But there is no substitute for putting in resources for education. His biggest task will be how he manages his most significant immediate stakeholder which is the President and the Cabinet because they must redirect resources from excessive expenditure spent on travels, expensive jets, on corruption…”

Meanwhile, Chipimo has urged President Lungu to be holding press conferences at least once every three months for a quarterly review of Cabinet performance.

“And some of the ministries, instead of warnings, there should be some key performance indicators which are publicised and the president should himself be holding a press conference at least once every three months, to do a quarterly review of the performance of these ministers based on publicised performance indicators so that we don’t have to guess as to whether the President is going to fire a minister for non-performance,” said Chipimo.

“But unfortunately, President Lungu has decided that he is not going to have a press conference in his entire tenure. It seems he wants to speak at the airport and off the cuff but the country needs some leadership and guidance. And given the critical nature of what we are going through at the moment, whether the President wants to accept it or not, people are suffering, the economy is biting, the prospects for employment for young graduates, even if they go to the university, are very slim.”