Home Affairs Minister Edgar Lungu has cautioned UNZA students against opening themselves up for abuse by opposition leaders fulfilling personal political aspirations.
And 31 UNZA students were yesterday arrested by police for rioting, Lusaka Province police commissioner Joyce Kasosa confirmed.
Mr Lungu has told the students that when they are caught committing criminal acts as they continue rioting, they will be arrested, tried and even expelled from the university.
“Once you are arrested or expelled,” Mr Lungu said, “your future will be jeopardised permanently while the opposition figures using you [students] will move on and not lend a helping hand…you have to be smart about your future and don’t be part of the mob and live to regret these actions.”
Mr Lungu said: “We have solid intelligence that points to the fact that greedy and impatient politicians are behind the student disturbances and trying to deliberately grind the country to a standstill but I can tell them here and now that we will not allow that…any semblance of anarchy will be dealt with swiftly.”
Mr Lungu is doubtful that the application by the opposition UPND to stage countrywide demonstrations regarding the removal of subsidies on fuel and maize would be allowed.
“This is a sensitive application that can only be approved if we are satisfied that law and order will prevail and not take chances of letting a situation get out of control,” Mr Lungu said.
He cautioned politicians in the opposition to be patient and not force change.
“The PF has a five-year mandate to administer the affairs of the country and it must be allowed to do so without anarchy.”
If the opposition has a problem with this, let them wait for 2016 and make their case. Anything short of that is illegal and will be dealt with as such. This is a warning,” he said.
UNZA students have staged protests in Lusaka and in some cases damaged property.
The UPND on Thursday said they had applied to demonstrate against the government’s removal of subsidies next week.
And education minister John Phiri said political leaders who are using students to revolt against a democratically elected Government are not interested in seeing them get quality education.
He said at a press briefing in Lusaka yesterday that Government has been taken aback by the continued riotous behaviour at UNZA.
On the arrests, Ms Kasosa said the students include 17 men and 14 women. Calm has since returned to UNZA.
A check at the institution by the Daily Mail found police keeping vigil while the students had retreated to their rooms.
They started rioting on Thursday night demanding that government reverses its decision to remove subsidies on fuel and maize.
In the early hours of yesterday, the students fought running battles with the police for several hours.
Police had a tough time trying to control the irate students, who mobilised themselves and blocked the Great East Road, causing panic among motorists and pedestrians.
They lit bon fires on the roads and created fear and confusion.
The students, who had earlier planned to march to State House to seek audience with President Sata, were stopped by police clad in riot gear at Mulungushi International Conference Centre.
And Ms Kasosa said police will continue to keep vigil at the institution until the situation stabilises.
“Our officers will be on the ground to ensure that sanity returns to UNZA,” Ms Kasosa said.