UNIVERSITY of Zambia (UNZA) workers unions have downed tools demanding payment of their January and February 2020 salaries arrears.

Clad in “black Wednesday” attire, workers from the three unions, UNZALARU, UNZAPROSU, and UNZAWU said they would not go back to work until their two months’ salary arrears are settled at once.

The workers who gathered at the UNZA Great East Road campus graduation square in Lusaka, Wednesday, began their meeting by mimicking the First Lady meme “Amwa peeling” as they weeped in mockery while dancing to a social commentary song “Anyandule” by Petersen.

They also displayed placards with various messages, some reading: “It’s passed 15th, should we insult?”, “UNZA salaries diverted to Chilubi by-elections”, “UNZA salaries gassed”, “Amwa peeling for help”, “DMMU my salary is a disaster,” “UNZA salaries headed for Chawama level one hospital”, and “House for rent but not to UNZA workers please.”

Speaking when addressing the workers, University of Zambia Professional Staff Union (UNZAPROSU) general secretary Nalucha Mayamba said those charged with the responsibility of managing the institution were confused and stuck like a frog in the mud.

“There is no hope at all that our salaries will be paid soon. Even those that are charged with the responsibility of running this institution are confused, perplexed including those who are the ministry. They don’t know what to do. They are confused and stack like a frog which is stuck in the mud. It is up to us to do something. It’s like we are in a game of football where management has scored two clear off-side goals and a referee who is a labour commissioner has allowed these goals to stand. For us, we also have to score two goals. If it means getting the ball and runing with it up to the goal, we have to do it. If it means holding the goal keeper and pushing him so that he gets out of the way, we have to score,” said Mayamba.

University of Zambia and Allied Workers Union, University of Zambia Professional Staff Union and University of Zambia Lecturers and Researches Union in Lusaka protest over delayed salaries at UNZA Main Campus on February 26, 2020 Picture by Tenson Mkhala

“We have to decide and do something today. And once we decide, everyone has to participate. There is no turning back. We have to paralyse this institution. At the ministry there, banyopola, badya (they have eaten whilst we are suffering). Where is the money? Don’t come here and excite us with fake stories, we want action. This time around bazachiona (they will see),” he said.

And University of Zambia and Allied Workers’ Union (UNZAWU) president Michael Kaluma said for as long as the institution did not employ them to give charity services, they will not resume work until they get what is due to them.

“If this institution was established on the assumption that it was going to run on charity, that position must have been known from the word go so that at the time of applying for employment, we should have been very clear that ‘I am going to work for a charitable organisation.’ Without any apology, we are going to completely withdraw our labour. The only way we will get out of this crisis where we are in is by completely withdrawing our labour individually and collectively. Those that will betray others and continue with work are not normal. We withdraw our labour until our January salaries together with our February salaries are paid. From here, no one is expected to go back to work. Withhold your service,” Kaluma ordered.

And another worker from the audience shouted saying: “Nembwa shalitusula mu Komboni. Tashitubosa nga tulepita (even dogs have stopped backing at us in compounds when we are passing because we are nobodies now).”