We wish to condemn in the strongest possible terms the manner in which the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) government is handling the unfortunate situation at the Copperbelt University (CBU) which culminated in the ruthless beatings of students on Independence Day, 24th October 2015.
Instead of having honest open dialogue, the PF decided to send the police to terrorise and beat up students who were protesting peacefully, leading to the resignation of the PF CBU Chairperson Kingsley Chinyama. We roundly condemn the totally unacceptable police brutality which resulted in horrific injuries to the students.
Whilst we are aware that university students cannot be given license to misbehave, riot and damage private property such as vehicles, it is certainly not right for the government to be heavy-handed and beat up students who are protesting peacefully. Such acts lead to animosity and can cause instability in a nation and unnecessary disruptions of the academic calendar.
The PF government has been too slow to deal with this brewing crisis which had its origins in the CBU lecturers demanding for the removal of Vice-Chancellor Professor Naison Ngoma and his management team. The PF always wait until issues get out of control resulting in irrational, usually impulsive reactions such as their handling of the mining companies, Chitimukulu and Barotseland issues.
The lack of decisive action by PF caused a strike and led to the closure of CBU in the midst of an ongoing standoff between the government, lecturers and the Professor Ngoma administration. This inaction by the PF government is also adding fuel to the fire of the unresolved problems at University of Zambia and Mulungushi University.
Threats, intimidation, beatings, suspensions, removal of bursaries for students or dismissals of lecturers by government is a sign of poor weak leadership and lack of wisdom. The PF Government must understand that peaceful demonstrations are part and parcel of a democratic dispensation which cannot be wished away.
We are particularly concerned that this violence is happening a week after national prayers and fasting for peace and reconciliation from which we hoped Zambia would turn a new leaf in governance and other areas. It appears that the PF leopard cannot change its spots.
It seems the PF government under President Edgar Lungu is sliding towards more incompetence. Their confused style of leadership is what has led to the challenges now being faced in the mining sector resulting in unprecedented job losses. Just today, China Copper Mines announced that they are about to lay off 200 workers and have shelved plans to invest $50 million which would have increased employment to 1,000. Meanwhile the President has planned a wasteful trip to the Copperbelt where he shall camp for 5 days.
The entire President does not need to relocate to the Copperbelt to understand what is going on there in order to find solutions. Does it mean he will need to relocate to every province in order to have a good understanding of what is going on in every part of the country? This is totally unnecessary and just another excuse for wasting tax payers’ money. We cannot continue like this.
In 1991, the MMD ushered in a multi-party dispensation which came packaged with freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of movement to stop the very type of police brutality we have witnessed against the university students.
Lest anyone should forget, this was the order of the day during the One Party Dictatorship of the UNIP era. PF cannot and shall not take us backwards. Zambia is bigger than any one individual and we should do what is right for the nation and not for individuals.
We say no to Police Violence! Zambia shall be saved from police brutality under my government.
Dr Nevers Sekwila Mumba