WHO OR­GAN­ISED UNZA RIOT?

...for­mer stu­dents ac­cuse in­vis­i­ble hand

Daily Nation Newspaper - - FRONT PAGE - By AARON CHIYANZO AND SAN­DRA MACHIMA

There is this white can­ter, with­out a num­ber plate that comes to dump some tyres at the bin near the en­trance from VET. Each time it does that, in the evening there are al­ways ri­ots. The can­ter comes from Great East Road di­rec­tion,” — Source.

Some dis­grun­tled politi­cian must be se­cretly spon­sor­ing the per­pe­tra­tors to cause more havoc, says for­mer UNZASU pres­i­dent Antonio Mwanza

IN­FOR­MA­TION has emerged that each time there is a riot at the Univer­sity of Zam­bia (UNZA), a white un­reg­is­tered Can­ter de­liv­ers tyres which it dumps at the univer­sity’s dump­site near the Kalin­galinga en­trance. These tyres are burnt to block the Great East Road. A source, who op­er­ates from within UNZA’s Great East cam­pus premises said that he had witnessed the can­ter dump­ing tyres in the day twice and that each time, a riot erupts later in the night. The source re­vealed that even last Thurs­day, he saw the same Can­ter dump­ing tyres at the same spot and that the riot that erupted that evening made him sus­pi­cious. “There is this white can­ter, with­out a num­ber plate that comes to dump some tyres at the bin near the en­trance from VET. Each time it does that, in the evening there are al­ways ri­ots. The can­ter comes from Great East Road di­rec­tion,” he said. Mean­while, some for­mer UNZASU lead­ers be­lieve ex­ter­nal forces in­sti­gated the Univer­sity ri­ots that led to the death of one stu­dent and left an­other crit­i­cally injured. For­mer Univer­sity of Zam­bia Stu­dent’s Union trea­surer John­stone Chik­wanda has ob­served that ex­ter­nal forces are caus­ing chal­lenges in the uni­ver­si­ties with some po­lit­i­cal party branches within the in­sti­tu­tion at­tempt­ing to spon­sor stu­dents into the stu­dent union ex­ec­u­tive. And for­mer UNZASU pres­i­dent Antonio Mwanza, says an in­vis­i­ble hand in­sti­gated the re­cent riot at UNZA be­cause the time for the stu­dents to re­ceive their al­lowances was not yet due and Univer­sity man­age­ment had cir­cu­lated a memo that pay­ment would be made. Mr Chik­wanda has since ad­vised stu­dents to build good re­la­tion­ship with po­lice through their re­spec­tive union lead­ers and avoid be­ing used by politi­cians to gain po­lit­i­cal in­ter­ests. He said from the time me­mo­rial, the uni­ver­si­ties had a num­ber of ex­plo­sive episodes, say­ing there were many causes of stu­dents’ un­rest at UNZA and CBU; some of which had noth­ing to do with meal al­lowances and stu­dent union lead­ers. Mr Chik­wanda cau­tioned that while stu­dents could be­long to po­lit­i­cal par­ties of their choice, po­lit­i­cal party branches within the in­sti­tu­tions were not sup­posed to be estab­lished. “Talk­ing from ex­pe­ri­ence as a union leader and a stu­dent from UNZA, a demon­stra­tion can take place even when they have just been paid. For in­stance, what is hap­pen­ing in other unions at the univer­sity can al­ways be ex­pected to trig­ger stu­dent’s un­rest, aca­demic pres­sure from cer­tain schools from the univer­sity can also ig­nite un­rest. It takes a few stu­dents to ig­nite the whole cam­pus. Stu­dents have at times em­barked on demon­stra­tions which stu­dent lead­ers did not even sanc­tion at all,” he said. At the height of stu­dent ac­tivism, Mr Chik­wanda said, stu­dents used to demon­strate in sol­i­dar­ity with what could be hap­pen­ing in an­other coun­try among other lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional is­sues. There used to be big ral­lies and huge de­bates on great top­ics within the cam­pus, but with a good un­der­stand­ing with the po­lice. He ex­plained that it was rare that the po­lice could en­ter upon the univer­sity once stu­dents had re­treated in­side be­cause it was a sort of un­der­stand­ing stu­dents had had with po­lice. “Once stu­dents have re­treated into their halls of res­i­dence, you can­not fol­low them and throw tear gas can­is­ters into their bed­rooms.” It was a rare sit­u­a­tion, even with that, we hardly had in­ci­dences of po­lice break­ing doors to en­ter stu­dents rooms. Un­like some years ago, sev­eral se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers are now univer­sity grad­u­ates, so it is eas­ier to en­gage with them and sus­tain an un­der­stand­ing of some sort to cre­ate bound­aries within ac­cept­able lim­its. We did it in our time; in fact it was like an old un­writ­ten agree­ment that po­lice should not en­ter into halls of res­i­dence with guns and tear gas can­is­ters. So, cur­rent stu­dent lead­ers if they are in place are en­cour­aged to have cour­tesy calls on Lusaka Prov­ince Po­lice Com­mis­sioner and Cop­per­belt Prov­ince Com­mis­sioner from time to time as part of rou­tine stake­holder en­gage­ment. It is tragic that we have lost some­one in that man­ner,” he said. And Mr Mwanza said that from his ex­pe­ri­ence as the for­mer leader of the stu­dents union, the lean­ers would not riot be­fore the meal al­lowances were de­layed. He said there was still about two days re­main­ing for the meal al­lowances to be due when stu­dents ri­oted last Thurs­day. Mr Mwanza, who is Pa­tri­otic Front (PF) deputy me­dia di­rec­tor dis­closed that the univer­sity man­age­ment even cir­cu­lated a memo the same day ri­ots erupted, as­sur­ing the stu­dents that their al­lowances would be paid. He re­it­er­ated dur­ing an in­ter­view on ZNBC yes­ter­day that ow­ing to the fact that al­lowances were not de­layed and UNZA man­age­ment had com­mu­ni­cated gov­ern­ments’ in­ten­tions, an in­vi­able hand in­sti­gated the riot. Mr Mwanza said some dis­grun­tled politi­cian must be se­cretly spon­sor­ing the per­pe­tra­tors to cause more havoc. He blamed the lack of proper com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween the stu­dents, univer­sity and government as the rea­son for the con­tin­ued ri­otous be­hav­ior at the in­sti­tu­tion of higher learn­ing.

The two trucks the Sca­nia from South Africa and the Freight­liner (right), Zim­bab­wean reg­is­tered where found laden with Mukula tree logs. Re­cent UNZA ri­ots have been char­ac­ter­ized by burn­ing of tyres in­side and off cam­pus whose source the Daily Na­tion has learnt is a white can­ter truck with­out num­ber plates, which off­loads them at a dump site near the Vet school prior to each riot.

FILE PHOTO

For­mer Univer­sity of Zam­bia Stu­dent’s Union trea­surer John­stone Chik­wanda.

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