Government is mobilising PF-aligned University of Zambia lecturers to distance themselves from the University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers’ Union (UNZALARU)’s statement that “only idiots or those benefiting can vote for the ruling party if elections were called today”.

According to well-placed sources in the governing party who did not want to be named, the PF have tasked the party’s deputy media director Antonio Mwanza to rally a number of UNZA dons for the purpose of denouncing their union executive.

“Antonio has been tasked to mobilize some UNZA dons aligned to the PF for the purpose of distancing themselves from Dr Mambwe’s statement. They will say Dr Mambwe’s statement does not represent the views of the general membership. One or two pro-PF UNZA lecturers have already resigned from the Union over the same remarks, and these are the ones who are likely to protest against their union leadership. The problem is that many lecturers are reluctant to come out publicly in support of the PF for fear that their colleagues might laugh at them, so the PF is struggling to find sufficient numbers of lecturers who are prepared to betray their leadership”.

The source said at the heart of the ongoing maneuvers to deregister UNZALARU is the Union’s strong criticism of the government on key national issues.

“The PF are concerned that UNZALARU can hurt their electoral prospects ahead of a crucial election if the Union is left to exist. The government feels that they have ZCTU and Mineworkers Union in their pockets, but are worried about the growing influence of UNZALARU. The Union has taken important positions on key national issues, and the government is very aggrieved by the strong criticism from UNZALARU. If you recall, last year, the Union held a press conference where they denounced the infamous Bill 10 and explained why the proposed law should not see the light of day. That position did not sit down well with the government and some people felt that the Union should be dealt with”.

Another source revealed that the government plans to install a pro-PF UNZALARU once the current one is deregistered.

“I can tell you that the government really wants the Union dead before 2021 and their strategy is two-fold. The first plan is to cancel the certificate of registration of UNZALARU and then move quickly to form and register another Union consisting of lecturers who are pro-PF so that we go into the 2021 elections with a Union executive that supports the government of the day. This is what you are seeing now. In fact, what the government wants is for Dr Mambwe or the UNZALARU Executive to tender a public apology over the idiot remark. Once the apology is tendered, the plan is for the government and UNZA Management to then use that apology as evidence of admission of guilt or wrongdoing and push for the Union’s certificate of existence to be cancelled. This is because the government fears that if they cancelled the certificate of registration without an apology from UNZALARU, the Union is likely to seek legal redress and is in a strong position to win the case because the grounds on which the government wants to deregister it are weak at law”.

The source added that if the plan to deregister UNZALARU fails, the PF intends to sponsor candidates onto the Union’s Executive Committee at elections set for November this year.

“The second strategy is to sponsor a number of candidates to take over UNZALARU by way of capturing its leadership or advancing PF supporters to lead or run the Union and rendering it ineffective. In November this year, UNZALARU will hold general elections at which all executive positions will be up for grabs. As they did with the Law Association of Zambia, the PF has already identified a number of candidates that they hope to float for the different positions. Until recently, the PF were working with the second plan, but the recent strong language from the UNZALARU Executive prompted them to reinstate the first plan. You will recall that the government had attempted to deregister the Union last year over non-payment of gratuities, but the move was shelved after fears emerged that doing so might seriously disrupt the university calendar, which was already underway at the time. This time, they want to move quickly before the University reopens in February”.