Zambia?s President Levy Mwanawasa is blaming opposition parties for instigating students of the Copper belt University to embark on a mass protest to destabilize the country. This comes after university authorities closed down the school after students went on a rampage and destroyed properties during their protest over a protracted strike by their lecturers. Sources say the lecturers who are demanding better wages are in negotiations with Mwanawasa?s government, but there seem to be no noticeable agreement in sight.

Tilyenji Kaunda is the chairman of the opposition United National Independence Party (UNIP). He said President Mwanawasa?s accusations are misplaced.

?I think that the real blame is that insufficient resource has been put into education, including institutions of higher learning. I think that is the real problem. So, actually, the students are merely venting their frustrations. Now they (students) are part and parcel of our society, and of course they interact with all political parties including the MMD (ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy). So, I don?t think that it?s fair to blame the deterioration on opposition parties. I think that is inaccurate,? Kaunda said.

He said President Mwanawasa has no proof of the opposition?s alleged complicity in the ensuing riots after the student demonstration.

?I?m denying it because I?m saying that students are part and parcel of our society. And obviously they have a keen interest in the politics? they are venting their frustration, for instance the issue of the constitution, they?ve been waiting now since April 2003 for a new constitution to be in place, which would guarantee their rights in our democratic society? and I think that if they (government) want to talk about a root cause, let them invest more in the education sector. That is the only solution they can come to. Otherwise, blaming the opposition, they are shooting in the dark,? he pointed out.

Kaunda praised the formation of an inter-party body, which he said is seeking to bring together all political parties in the country for a discourse on national issues.

?What has happened is that with the ZCID (Zambia Center for Inter-party Dialogue), this is a forum where political parties can meet and they can agree to disagree on a number of issues of national interest, and also have a consensus on the key ones for instance the constitutional making process?so the ZCCID is actually playing a useful role in our democratic system,? Kaunda said.

He said the government?s recent pay increase to the country?s civil servants was not enough.

?I would say that 100% of one cent is nothing. So I think that the increases are cosmetic. The living standard, the basket that is required to be met is really far, far below what they?ve increased. I think that people are feeling the pinch,? he noted.