The government-induced arbitrary closure of the two public universities is an outrage and is yet another clear zero for Edgar Lungu and the Patriotic Front (PF). For, the only plausible reason for such an action at this time would be to rehabilitate the rotten basic infra-structure particularly at UNZA. It is a measure of the leadership crisis in this country that they were shut with indecent haste primarily to disguise the government’s advancing bankruptcy, its inefficiency and to instill the fear of god in those who would challenge the tottering PF administration thereby setting the tone for the elections.
The allowances paid to university students are a budgeted expenditure. They are not paid out every day nor even every other day but at known quite decent intervals! Why does it still take an agitation each time for them to be paid at all? It is the government that has set a bad precedent. The established sequence now is that unless there is an “uprising” the money will not be on time!
It’s common sense that it can’t be enough to merely close the universities. Those in the dysfunctional “delivery chain” must equally be held to account, including the minister. They lack diligence and don’t seem to learn from experience. It can’t help to mask their shortcomings in closures.
This was not the first time that the allowance was delayed. The problem has been recurrent and dealt with only superficially which has ensured that it has recurred.
These closures are irresponsible and retrogressive. They only go to further sully the universities’ already tattered reputations. Closure by government edict is particularly abhorrent -a throw- back to the bad old authoritarian days. That is how far backwards this country is being dragged. Edgar Lungu and the PF live in the past. They are incapable of conceptualizing a different future.
The statement of the Ministry of Higher Education was short on substance and long on waffle. It woefully failed to address the central issue of why these allowances are continually “delayed.” There’s clearly a deeper malaise and it is not “criminal students.” Taken all in all, the statement was trash.
Why has government got to be constantly plodded to pay up a budgeted expense by disruptions on the Great East Road? It should be pro-active and act as promptly and efficiently as when it hired a plane to New York for U$300.000!
The Ministry may be quick to broadcast that it supports the poor by paying among other expenses meal allowances. But what would have the poor students been eating while waiting for the “delayed allowances?” The delays lead to actual starvation among students which is what makes them combustible and not that fanciful lie about “two opposition activists.” Not surprisingly, they remained unnamed because they never were more than a figment of the imagination.
The realities on the ground are stark: Obtaining a degree under the PF is excruciating: There is a shortage of accommodation and lecturers. Further, those students who are “helped by the government to access higher education” must starve intermittently on account of “delayed” allowances. There is a critical shortage of current books and a major expense has come to be the cost of photocopying almost entire books! The library is increasingly only a museum. Even by African standards, this is poor, very poor.
It is getting harder and harder to graduate. No wonder many including some in the ministry have now resorted to the doubtful expedient of obtaining PhDs without ever having attempted a BA or MA!
The plight of these institutions is worsening because of inertia and scape goat-ism. It is time that the PF stopped hiding behind the opposition for its failures.
Overall, there’s no surprise however. Since coming to office, Edgar Lungu and the PF have been consistent in their inability to address any problem except superficially as in this case.
All the major crises have gone without any coordinated response: the mine retrenchments, the ever rising cost of living and worsening economy. There is just no response to all pressing issues. Authoritarianism will take the PF nowhere. The clock is ticking and soon it will be time up. There will be no added time -only sudden death for the PF!
The government is completely responsible for this mess. It set the precedent. It must take responsibility for once and re-open the universities immediately and unconditionally. There is no point playing hide and seek. Everybody knows who is at fault – the visionless PF and its leader of course.