By CHILA NAMAIKO
Government says it expects the results of an inquiry into last week’s rioting at the University of Zambia in Lusaka to be completed within a week and announced the school will be restructured.
Maintaining that the students had no proper grounds for their riotous behaviour in which a fourth-year student died after three rooms at a hostel for females caught fire, Higher Education Minister Nkandu Luo suggested in Parliament yesterday the disturbances were politically motivated.
In a statement that was marked by a brief walk-out by the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND), Prof Luo said all the eligible students had been paid their meal allowances long before last week’s tragic turn of events.
Prof Luo said that students were paid their meal allowance up to early this month and their riotous behaviour was shocking because the ministry communicated on August 22, this year, that they would be paid meal allowances for the remaining 69 days when additional funds would be available.
“Last week, the Treasury released finances for the remaining 69 days and these were processed and paid on 5 October 2018, the last date for the previous payments and a day before the next payments were due,” Prof Luo said.
She said Government expected the inquiry into the circumstances leading to the riot and the unfortunate death of a student and injury to some 20 others to be done inside one week.
As part of measures to end the cycle of riots at the university, Prof Luo informed the House that some schools would be merged while others would be relocated to other areas to bring sanity at the higher-learning institution.
She said this in response to questions for oral answers asked by Mufulira MP Evans Chibanda on what caused the riots at UNZA last week, in which a female student named as Vespers Shimuzhila died after her room caught fire. Another student was seriously hurt while 20 others were treated for various injuries.
Police have been condemned by various quarters for the use of tear gas in trying to quell the riot but have yet to make a formal statement of their own as they are still investigating the matter.
She said Government had also started paying all outstanding meal allowances to students for the term and was yet to commence the process of paying other allowances such as for projects.
“It is, therefore, regrettable that students are very quick to sign this, but decide to riot leading to the death of one student in an instance where there was no delay,” she said.
She said the ministry and UNZA management were working with other security wings in investigating the true motive for the riot.
UPND MPs stormed out of the House to show their dissatisfaction at some of Prof Luo’s answers but came back minutes later.
In other matters, the House also heard that Government was working on measures to reduce fuel prices in the country.
First Deputy Speaker Catherine Namugala, however, ordered Energy Minister Mathews Nkhuwa to render a ministerial statement to clarify on the cheaper Saudi-Arabia fuel deal.
This arose after members took turns to seek clarity from Mr Nkhuwa on how Zambia benefited from that.
Mr Nkhuwa earlier said one of the measures to ensure the country had cheaper fuel was by re-engaging financing agreement with Saudi Arabia
to supply much cheaper fuel from the prior contract of US$20 million to US$100 million.
He was responding to a follow-up question from Katuba (UPND) Patricia