CON­DON­ING RI­OT­ING

Daily Nation Newspaper - - HOME NEWS -

THE univer­sity com­mu­nity must take full re­spon­si­bil­ity for the tur­moil and sub­se­quent loss of life that oc­curred at the Great East Road Cam­pus last week­end. The com­mu­nity can­not equiv­o­cate and claim in­dig­nant right­eous­ness over the loss of life to pla­cate the pub­lic. This will not work this time. Why did they fail to in­form the stu­dents that al­lowances were not due? It is un­con­scionable that the Vice Chan­cel­lor and the Lec­tur­ers and Re­searchers Union (UNZALARU) have cho­sen to blame the Po­lice for the fra­cas. They know bet­ter. The truth is that the Po­lice did not start the riot. The riot was a pre­med­i­tated act of icon­o­clasm and anti-so­cial con­duct whose con­se­quences were equally known, long be­fore the first stones were cast at in­no­cent peo­ple driv­ing along the Great East Road. The stu­dents were fully aware of the con­se­quences. They knew that Po­lice, like in nu­mer­ous pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions, would push back and quell the riot to pro­tect in­no­cent Zam­bians. They also knew from pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence that Po­lice would in­vade the cam­pus to snuff out re­sis­tance and ar­rest per­pe­tra­tors for break­ing the law. This is their duty. The dif­fer­ence this time is that a life has been lost. This per­haps should be the start­ing point of any de­bate. Never be­fore has a life been lost. Such skir­mishes have al­ways re­sulted in in­juries, ar­rests and sub­se­quent ex­pul­sion or sus­pen­sion of the iden­ti­fied ring lead­ers. This time a new di­men­sion has been added. It is not clear how Ves­pers Shimuzhila lost her life. It is how­ever clear that she was not one of the stu­dents that ran a gaunt­let with Po­lice of­fi­cers. She was an un­for­tu­nate vic­tim of cir­cum­stances who was in the right place at the wrong time, when oth­ers had de­cided to defy the rule of law. She can­not be clas­si­fied as col­lat­eral dam­age be­cause there was no jus­ti­fi­able cause for what tran­spired and this is the point that both the Vice Chan­cel­lor and UNZARALU seem to be skirt­ing around with the in­ten­tion of ap­por­tion­ing blame un­fairly. Two things are very clear. Firstly, the power of pro­pa­ganda and mob psy­chol­ogy were at play. There was no co­gent ba­sis for any griev­ance re­lated to stu­dent al­lowances which were not due. In­stead emo­tions were whipped, logic was sup­planted by a neg­a­tive con­fronta­tional anger. This sense­less anger was ex­pressed against in­no­cent mem­bers of the pub­lic us­ing the Great East Road. Se­condly; given the cir­cum­stances, it is clear that the riot was nei­ther spon­ta­neous. It was the re­sult of ma­nip­u­la­tion by pro­pa­gan­dists who saw the po­ten­tial po­lit­i­cal ben­e­fit of con­fronta­tion. That is why we are not per­suaded by rhetoric. In­de­pen­dent author­i­ties must dig to the root and an­tecedents of this very dis­as­trous episode in the life of the Univer­sity of Zam­bia. Through metic­u­lous in­ves­ti­ga­tion by all con­cerned, in­clud­ing the univer­sity ad­min­is­tra­tion and in­deed UNZALARU, the per­pe­tra­tors and in­sti­ga­tors of the riot must be iden­ti­fied. They are ac­ces­sories to a mur­der. Without their reck­less ac­tion Ves­pers would still be alive to­day and her col­league would not be seek­ing spe­cial­ist spinal treat­ment in South Africa. All these oc­curred be­cause some­body schemed the skir­mish. This per­son and his col­leagues must be iden­ti­fied, to re­ceive their just re­wards.

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