Public University lecturers are currently renewing their resolve to resume their work stoppage owing to unpaid March salaries. Instead of calming the situation, the Higher Education Minister is inflaming it. Those demanding their wages are being told to go to hell!

“The ZCTU can go ahead and incite whoever they want to incite to protest; they can do what they like, I am not available. And those lecturers who believe in my passion can come on board, those who don’t believe, they can also resign and leave the University because if they say the University is not paying them, they should just resign and go and find jobs elsewhere and we will find other people to come and teach!” said Prof Luo.

Surely, that sounds like the language of a very tired, hurting and probably grudge-bearing Minister. A Minister has no right to vent such anger on her employees, especially if they have a basis for complaining. A responsible Minister is expected to show compassion and concern, even if she doesn’t care about the well-being of the lecturers. At least she should have the courtesy of trying to explain where the problem is.

We are concerned that Prof Luo has continued to show arrogance in places where she should be humble; she is flaunting her frustrations instead of solutions. At the rate she is going, she is poised to become the most disastrous Minister of Education in Zambia’s history!

But like we have stated previously on this page, we understand the Minister’s loss of interest in leadership. She has run her race and she has nothing more to offer. Prof Luo has been in and out of government for the past 21 years and her ears are tired of hearing problems. That is why when lecturers complain, she hears malice and responds with bitterness. Indeed, the Minister has lost the zeal to overcome challenges. She wishes problems could solve themselves while she sits there to get paid and buy makeup.

But while we agree with everybody else that Prof Luo’s arrogance is stretching beyond redemption, we must remember to apportion the blame of what is going on at these public universities to the right culprits. Yes, Prof Luo has proved to be exceptionally incompetent, but the problems facing UNZA and CBU are beyond her. The Minister is somewhere around the belly, but this fish is rotten at the head.

We can insult Prof Luo and call her all sorts of names, but this is not an academic policy issue, it’s not about bunker beds and logistics, about who sleeps where or banning the University Students’ Union. This is about government failing to fund the education sector in general. Zambia is broke! That is the headline.

Fortunately, the lecturers have the liberty to protest and air their grievances publicly. But they are not the only ones who are facing this predicament. We also know for a fact that Zambia’s missions abroad have not been funded, our diplomats have not been paid, some of them like in Malaysia, for two months! Can anyone in government deny this?

Fellow countrymen and women, we all need answers, but the questions we have are beyond Prof Luo. We don’t want President Lungu to hold a State of the Nation Address on television and radio where there will be no room for questions. We need him to hold a press conference at State House. Citizens want to know what is going on. They are confused because government says everything is well yet their salaries are missing!

How can a President propose a closure of the two highest learning institutions? Does that show a leader who cares for the country? We don’t think so. This is failure to solve problems! The lecturers have not committed any crime; they have only demanded what is due to them.

Please, President Lungu, show the people you are leading, that you care. For once, try to put their hate, anger, frustration and bitterness above your ego. How can you be a proud President when your entire government workforce is cursing you? How does it feel to fly in a brand new presidential jet when those sounding the national anthem are singing on empty stomachs? Where is your morality, Mr President?
There has to come a point when a leader should admit mistakes and initiate a course of recovery. When is that time going to be for you, President Lungu? Look at the face of the population, Sir. Lock your office and open Facebook, Mr President, what are the people saying? Are you sure you are leading a happy citizenry?

If Mr Lungu thinks these questions we are asking are motivated by any sort of jealousy, bitterness or malice, we can predict that he will write a very interesting book in the near future. He will remember these days when he ignored the voices of reason; when he unleashed attack dogs and the police on critics. We are nothing, but pencil in the hands of the Creator.