ALLIANCE for Community Action (ACA) executive director Laura Miti says Higher Education Minister Brian Mushimba’s explanation on why government is delaying to give universities and TEVET Colleges and Science Statutory Boards their grants is absurd.

In a statement published in the Zambia Daily Mail Newspaper yesterday, Dr Mushimba explained that resources meant for government funded institutions of higher learning had been redirected to police the current “unforeseen circumstances” like gassing and floods.

“The Ministry of Higher Education notes with regret the delays in receiving grants from the Treasury. The Ministry is alive to the fact that this delay has caused despair among members of staff in its Universities, TEVET Colleges and some Science ad Research Institutions. The delay in receiving funding is as a result of the fact that resources have been required urgently to meet the life and death circumstances in various parts of the country. Through the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU) and the Zambia police, resources have had to be mobilised to address the unfortunate and unforeseen circumstances that are being addressed currently in various parts of the country,” stated Mushimba.

“I however, wish to appeal to members of staff in our institutions, including those at the University of Zambia and the Copperbelt University to remain calm and bear with government as we apply ourselves to to resolving this matter of delayed release of grants. I wish to assure you that my Ministry is in discussions with the Ministry of Finance on how to urgently address the situation. We are doing everything possible to resolves this matter. I cannot over-emphasise the urgency with which government is trying to resolve this matter.”

But reacting to this announcement in a statement, Miti said issues of Public Order and Safety in the country had adequately been provided for in the national budget hence, there was no need to redirect any more resources to that cause.

“The ACA would like alert the nation to the illogicality of this claim: As wider civil society has stated repeatedly, the national budget has allocated disproportionate shares of strained resources to policing and public order in a period in which critical social sectors like education are seeing reductions in financing. Specifically, the 2020 budget allocated K4 billion to Public Order and Safety and K6.5 billion to Defence. Together the current security situation has K10. 5 billion in the budget for an in-depth response. We compare that to the Higher Education sector that was allocated only K1.5 billion Kwacha in the 2020 budget, a reduction from last year’s K1.9 billion. The Minister’s statement is absurd in that he is asking the nation to accept that policing public order, which already has 10 times more in the budget than higher education, should take even the little allocated to Universities and Colleges. He is asking for University lecturers to go without their salaries so that a sector that already wastes money in buying astronomically expensive equipment is prioritised. Why is it that money meant for service on which the power depend is so easily sacrificed?” Miti asked.

Miti further challenged Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo to tell the country exactly how policing money was being spent.

“The ACA is of the view that the Minister of Home Affairs Mr Stephen Kampyongo, should explain to the nation exactly how this policing money is being spent in the current crisis given that those gassing or carrying out mob justice are doing so in the most rudimentary form. They are not flying into townships in expensive jets or using fancy drones. Basic policing skills are what are needed to address this crisis not extra money taken from young people’s education. As the ACA, we protest in the highest form this mismanagement and wrong prioritisation of resources. We state again that policing has much more money that it needs or deserves. No resources should be taken from other sectors during crises. The budget already allocates more than required resources to respond to the current situation,” stated Miti.