Zambian authorities arrested students and closed the country’s top two public universities on Wednesday after protesters allegedly burned tires and used logs to barricade a road to the airport in Lusaka over delayed payment of food and book allowances.
The government said it sent students home and closed indefinitely the University of Zambia in Lusaka and Copperbelt University in the central city of Kitwe to protect people’s lives and property, News24 reported.
Law enforcement officials arrested 26 students at the University of Zambia and more than 30 protesters at Copperbelt University, Bloomberg reported.
The Zambian government pays tuition allowances at the beginning of every academic year to the schools, according to AfricaNews. Meal allowances are paid directly to students at the beginning of each term.
In a prepared statement, the government said, “two opposition leaders were spotted distributing T-shirts and pamphlets at several higher learning institutions including the two universities in recent weeks.
“The criminal behavior by students and known opposition activists has forced government to take decisive steps to restore law and order.”
The government said 10 of the offenders arrested on campus who appeared in court were in fact not students but opposition activists.
“Due to the lack of a conducive environment for learning at the two universities, it has been decided that the two universities close indefinitely,” Higher Education Minister Michael Kaingu said in a statement, according to News24.
Zambia has been one of the African countries hit hard by the economic slowdown in China. Its economy depends on copper exports. China’s waning demand and falling copper prices have closed mines, and thousands of jobs have been lost in recent months, New York Times reported.
Government revenue is down, inflation has risen to 21.8 percent, and a power crisis reduced output by mining companies, according to Bloomberg.