UNZA students deny riotous conduct charge

12 students from the University of Zambia Great East Road Campus who were arrested when they staged a peaceful protest to demand for a new constitution and the release of Daily Nation Editors, Richard Sakala and Simon Mwanza and FODEP Executive director MacDonald Chipenzi appeared in the Lusaka magistrates court on Monday and denied the charge of idle loitering and riotous behaviour.

According to the indictment the students are alleged to have engaged in idle and riotous behaviour contrary to chapter 178 section 8 of the penal code of the laws of Zambia. They are being represented by L.M. Chambers and had their police bond extended to allow them look for sureties to guarantee them bail.

Last week the students staged a peaceful protest in the university premises to press government to adopt the constitution through a referendum, release and dropping of charges against Sakala, Mwanza and Chipenzi and the collapse in the rule of law under the PF regime but armed policemen moved into campus and arrested over 30 students and some general workers found at the nation’s highest institution of learning.

They were detained at different police stations and only 12 were brought to court while the whereabouts of others is still unknown. Efforts to get a comment from police spokesperson Charity Munganga Chanda  failed as her phone went unanswered.

The 12 students and a chef, Victor Makukula who was wrongly rounded up with the students appeared in the company of their lawyers from L.M. Chambers and FODEP’s Chipenzi among other civil society organizations and opposition parties members who were at the court to offer solidarity.

University of Zambia Students Union (UNZASU) secretary general Best Maambo condemned the harassment of the students who were exercising their democratic right to express themselves on national matters while UPND deputy spokesperson Edwin Lifwekelo bemoaned the deteriorating standards of democracy in the country. Former MMD Solwezi central parliamentarian Lucky Mulusa called on Zambians to stand up and defend the country from the bad governance of the PF.

“You cannot have a regime that is always quarrelsome, today they quarrel with judiciary, tomorrow with MPs, the other day with lawyers and traditional leaders, and again another day they are quarreling, detaining journalists, dismissing and quarreling with nurses and worse still they are busy fighting one another, so what time do they have to work for the voters that put them in office? Zambians must stand up and redeem the country,” said Mulusa who was also at court and added that he did not condone riotous behaviou from the students but asked them to establish better ways of resolving problems especially that the minister of education (Dr. John Phiri) is a former lecturer at the institution.  Meanwhile police had a tough time to control the over 500 students and other members of the public who turned up to support their friends and hear the case. After realizing that they were outnumbered, police reinforcements were deployed, leading to heavy presence of police and armoured police vehicles stationed at the court entrance.