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Youth minister threatens to dismiss University of Zambia radio staff

Unza Radio/Facebook

This article was originally published on misa.org on 10 October 2014 .

Youth and Sport Minister Chishimba Kambwili has threatened to dismiss reporters at UNZA Radio, and has accused them of being sponsored by his enemies.

According to The Post newspaper, on 8 October 2014, Kambwili stormed UNZA Radio in the company of an unknown man in an effort to intimidate student reporters. He demanded to see station manager Macpherson Mutale and Lusaka Star presenter Mark Simuwe.

A visibly annoyed Kambwili first stormed the station booth, demanding to see Simuwe and then the newsroom, which was mainly comprised of second-year mass communication students.

“He first went into the booth, disrupted the presenter on air, demanding [to see] Mark. Then when the presenter told him [that] Mark and the station manager were not there, he opened the newsroom door and started shouting 'Where is Mark?' After that, he told us 'I will have you all fired', although we wondered 'How does he fire students?'” said a mass communication student.

Mutale confirmed that Kambwili stormed the radio station and was later taken to meet the head of the mass communication department, Colonel Emmanuel Kunda.

Mutale said Kambwili had since accused the station of having an agenda against him and being sponsored by his enemies.

Demonstrating students, who were only dispersed by police in riot gear, carried placards denouncing Kambwili.

They blocked Great East Road and lit a fire on the tarmac.

The Post has found students still assembled at the university and carrying placards, some of which read: 'Give us back our building', 'Kambwili must go', 'Abash intimidation'.

Police officers cleared the road and manned all entrance points to the university.

The students, who started demonstrating on Tuesday, are demanding that Kambwili apologise for a statement he made that says it is not the responsibility of government to educate citizens.

The students also want Kambwili to give them back the Commonwealth building.

They locked up the building on Tuesday afternoon and drove off a bus belonging to the Ministry of Youth and Sport, which has since been returned.

“We have given them their bus, we are not interested in the bus. Let them give us our building. Anyway, we have already taken over the building,” said another student.

However, the documents obtained pertaining to the Commonwealth building titled 'Architects brief and programme of accommodation for the commonwealth regional centre for advanced studies in youth work at the Great East Road Campus of the University of Zambia' indicate that ownership of the site and facilities will be vested in the University of Zambia.

The document further states that, “If and when the facilities are no longer required for this purpose [as Commonwealth secretariat], the university will be free to use them for its own requirements.”

It also states that arrangements would be formalised by the exchange of letters or agreements between the government, UNZA and the Commonwealth secretariat.

But Kambwili, who phoned UNZA Radio during a live programme dubbed the Lusaka Star, said the property does not belong to the University of Zambia.

He said the Commonwealth had continued to operate in Zambia but were merely using a different mode.

“The issue of handing over the facility to the University of Zambia is neither here nor there. The property still belongs to the Ministry of Youth and Sport for the purpose of youth programmes in the region and in Zambia,” Kambwili said.

“There is no closure in the programme…they only changed the mode of operation, the people who were there...and also are not directly funding the programme, and the people who are now employed will be paid by the government of Zambia.”

Kambwili also threatened to arrest the students involved in the demonstrations, as well as UNZASU leaders who spoke on the Lusaka Star show concerning the Commonwealth building.

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