Higher Education Minister Dr Brian Mushimba has demanded a public apology from UNZALARU over their “idiot” remarks, saying they are intolerable.

Commenting on the University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers Union’s (UNZALARU) general secretary Dr Kelvin Mambwe’s remarks that only idiots would vote for the PF, Dr Mushimba said the former had apologized to him in a private conversation, but insisted that his apology would only be acceptable if it was made public.

Speaking when he had a meeting with University of Zambia (UNZA) retirees at his office in Lusaka, Wednesday, Dr Mushimba also revealed that government, through the Ministry of Finance, had allowed UNZA to get a loan of K200 million to pay off its retirees of as far as 2011.

“Government has consistently released funding and we are current as per that funding circle. So, for anyone to disregard this, which is common and known and start issuing blanket threats and disrespecting the citizenry of this country by calling them idiots, that I will not stand by! I spoke to UNZALARU yesterday and I voiced this concern. Their secretary general apologized, but the apology to me in a private conversation is not enough; when you went to radio and TV and blasted and insulted everyone from the highest office to your management with the level of impunity and lack of civility, that is uncalled for. That apology to a private conversation falls short and they need to do more. They have done a lot of damage and how they will recover from this damage, I don’t know,” Dr Mushimba said.

And Mushimba said government’s delay in paying employees’ salaries in a timely manner was on account of late release of funds from the Treasury.

“I had an engagement and a discussion with them yesterday and just like I have had many other engagements with them as I became their Minister, together with the University management, my discussions have been the same. And that is why, what they did on Monday was extremely painful to me and very disappointing and regrettable. Since I have been in this Ministry in the last six months, the salaries at the University of Zambia have been paid roughly about the same time, which is about 10th or 11th of the month. And the reason is that government has funding circles. The last funding circle of the month, usually, is for government paying salaries to civil servants, which happens between 6th and 20th of every month. Once the funding to civil servants is done, the next phase is funding to grant-aided institutions (and) University of Zambia happens to be one of them. And that funding usually comes around the 4th or 5th of the new month. This has been happening since I came to this Ministry, and it’s something that UNZALARU is aware of,” Mushimba argued.

Meanwhile, Dr Mushimba said the Ministry of Finance had allowed UNZA to get a loan of K200 million to pay off its retirees, who had been owed for nine years, to finally get them of the University’s pay roll.

“The monies that government releases monthly or periodically (to the University of Zambia) is not enough to get retirees off payroll. As you know, the law requires that until someone is fully paid, they stay on pay roll. So, then, our institutions are forced to maintain two pay rolls; (one for) active people and retired people. And government is injecting money to clear the retirees, but we are not clearing them fast enough and we find ourselves spinning our wheels and not making as much progress as we should,” said Dr Mushimba.

“So, we sat with the University of Zambia and agreed that, maybe, a more permanent solution for this is for government, through Ministry of Finance, is for the Treasury to give approval to the University of Zambia to get a loan of a certain amount that will clear the retirees off the University of Zambia payroll and save the monies that they are paying to people sitting at home so that those resources now could be channelled to servicing the loan that they are going to get or other pertinent expenses at the institution. And Ministry of Finance has given a go-ahead for the University of Zambia to go on the market and get that loan. The retirees that we have are from 2011 to-date. In terms of the amount that has been approved by Ministry of Finance for the University of Zambia to get as a loan, it’s K200 million.”