The University of Zambia Lecturers and Researchers’ Union says it is gravely disturbed and shocked by the Zambia Police Service’s summoning of its officials over the recent student unrest at the University of Zambia.
On 16th October 2018, the leadership of UNZALARU received phone calls from two officers who identified themselves as Elizabeth Mbewe, the Zambia Police Assistant Director for Crime Investigations Department and Mr. Kabamba from the Anti-Fraud Unit.
Assistant Director Mbewe and Mr. Kabamba proceeded to summon the UNZALARU Vice-President, Dr. Andrew Phiri, and the UNZALARU General Secretary, Dr. Kelvin Mambwe, to separately appear before them the following morning to answer questions about “the recent events at UNZA”.
Union General Secretary Kelvin Mambwe says it appears that instead of owning up to the fact that they caused and are ultimately responsible for the crisis that led to the recent student demonstrations, the government and the police service have embarked on a fishing expedition aimed at finding someone else to blame.
Dr. Mambwe said the root causes of the student unrest are evident: failure of the Government to pay students their meal allowances on time or to timely explain to them when they would receive their stipends; the suspension of student union activities by the Minister of Higher Education, which affected the flow of communication between the authorities and students; and the heavy-handedness of the Police, which resulted in the tragic death of a female final-year student, Vespers Shimuzhila.
He confirmed that UNZALARU honoured the Police’s request yesterday and at the interview, it became apparent that the police were ill-informed about the purpose and makeup of UNZALARU.
Dr. Mambwe said some officers were convinced that UNZALARU represents students when in fact the Union only represents academic staff.
He said the Police asked them what they know about the outbreak of the recent protests by UNZA students, if UNZALARU leadership had helped organise the student protests.
And Dr. Mambwe said an article written by Austin Mbozi, a University of Zambia lecturer and UNZALARU member, criticising among other things the Police’s management of the student protests, has been used as an excuse to detain him.
“The Police appear to be frantically searching for evidence to link his article to the organisation of the protests. We were asked about what we knew about the same but provided little information, other than a copy of the same article that the author shared with Dr. Phiri, three days after the protest occurred, since the Union is not responsible for policing the thoughts of our members on issues of national concern”. He added.
Mbozi has been in police custody since Monday, detained at Woodlands Police Station without charge and the Union has called on the Police to release him immediately, or formally charge and present him before the courts of law.