NUZC: Crisis of Leadership


This article is intended to enlighten those students who never had a chance of attending the 10th Annual Congress of the National Union of Zambia Students, NUZS, at Mulungushi Hall, on some aspects of the Conference’s proceedings so as to justify why UNZASU delegation staged a walk out. The majority of the students seem not to be satisfied with Kasula-Penza explanation of what went on at the conference. The students of this country know very well that UNZASU is more powerful than NUZS. This is not a hypothetical statement it is an empirically tested statement. Here are some of the factors that make UNZASU a more viable organization than NUZS.


LEADERSHIP: Educated and usually drawn from various disciplines, like economics, political science, law, education and other disciplines in natural science. The leadership is usually student oriented this is because pressure from below is so great that the leadership becomes more receptive to student problems. Its capacity and capability to handle student problems is second to none.
MANPOWER: Has adequate skilled manpower.
FINANCIAL POSITION: Better than any one institution.
SIZE: Has the greatest number of students in the country’s higher institutions of learning.


LEADERSHIP: Poor educational standard. Leadership is usually drawn from plumbers, photographers and those who do designing and nutrition at various Colleges. The leadership is usually composed of former school prefects who are fully attuned to receiving commands from above and this makes them lack initiative. The leadership is not student oriented.
MANPOWER: It lacks skilled manpower and this reduces its capability to look at certain problems on broader national perspectives.
FINANCIAL POSITION: Chaotic financial condition even a young farmers club in a secondary school is in a more powerful financial position than NUZS. There is a poor auditing system. The source of finance is usually students’ subscriptions and UNZASU pays more because it has the greatest number of students i.e. 2,000 as compared to NRDC (about 800).
SIZE: Bigger than UNZASU but suffers the problem of scale.

The foregoing institutional comparison reveals how NUZS is and how it comes second, in importance, to UNZASU. Each year is followed by election of the quality of leadership which I have mentioned in NUZS. The 10th Annual Conference of NUZS started on Friday 28th and “ended” on Sunday 30th September, 1973.
The institutions that were represented were:
All these institutions except U.T.H. and CHAINAMA HILLS had equal number of delegates i.e. 20. The method used in the selection of delegates was based on institutional line not on population basis or in terms of the amount of money each institution subscribes to NUZS.

It goes without saying that candidates put up by UNIVERSITY OF ZAMBIA STUDENTS UNION, UNZASU, had little or no chance of infiltrating the NUZS leadership to give it a revolutionary and intellectual flavor. There has always been institutional regrouping among small institutions, in sponsoring candidates to defeat those put by UNZASU.

This is why UNZA, has always been thrown by the wayside, thus giving way to conservative leadership in NUZS. In cases where NUZS had been captured by an UNZA student, it has always been impossible for him to work hand in hand with his immediate, like Secretary General, Treasurer and Publicity Secretary who usually came from poorly qualified conservative groups.

At the 10th Conference of NUZS we witnessed an attempt by small institutions to dominate NUZS leadership thus perpetuating the old conservative tradition of NUZS politics. This made us think of withdrawing and eventually we withdrew.

Let me give you the background information which led to our withdrawal. There was a debate on the constitutional amendment of NUZS. Some UNZA DELEGATES Messers, Kabanje, Lubasi and Penza contended that the posts of President, Secretary General, Treasurer and Publicity Secretary should, for administrative purposes, be centered in Lusaka. This gave UNZA; NRDC and Evelyne Hone a chance to selecting candidates for these posts.

This acted as a blow to small Copperbelt institutions which wanted to capture Presidency, Secretary Generalship and Treasury. The issue was debated at length and Mr. Penza and Mr. Lubasi, justified these moves by saying that the President and his colleagues could effectively coordinate in their performance of NUZS functions. Miss Juliana Chileshe, interjected and told the Copperbelt youths that government institutions like Parliament, Ministries, executive etc. are in Lusaka and there could be effective contact between NUZS and authorities.

The Copperbelt “delegates” did not understand what we meant by “effective coordination” as an administrative imperative. We decided to put the issue to a vote and we won. At this point NRDC and Evelyne Hone, never pushed the issue too far as they wanted to capitalize on the UNZASU Copperbelt antagonism. The process of institutional alignment started and Copperbelt delegate made sure that UNZASU paid for its “arrogance” aligned with Evelyne Hone. UNZASU delegation dominated the Conference proceedings on constitutional amendment that were aimed at rekindling NUZS from its smoldering ruin. This contributed to the furtherance of institutional polarization.

UNZASU Candidates were:
President – Kalimukwa
Vice-President – Chunda
Secretary General – Kabanje
Publicity Secretary – Chisanga

While I was filing my nomination papers, I overheard a Copperbelt delegate saying we have made a pact with Evelyne Hone, NRDC and other institutions. The terms of the pact are; that UNZA students be given no chance of capturing any of the posts. There was a rumor that UNZA students were trying to dominate NUZS.

On Sunday afternoon a few hours before the elections, Presidential candidate found himself being opposed by another candidate sponsored by all the institutions except NRDC. Mr. Kabanje found his position being squeezed and his scope of operation was reduced. The more one publicized himself the more he was squeezed from all sides.

The final blow to the Conference proceedings came when UNZA elderly man Mr. Canda accused UNZASU president of tampering with the electoral commission’s proceedings. UNZASU President was called by the commission to substantiate allegations of some candidates who were campaigning on institutional lines. Mr. Chanda did not want to be interfered within his proceedings; as a result there was a clash between the two. Some institutions might have thought that UNZASU wanted to rig the elections.

At this point we decided to withdraw from the conference. Mr. Penza accused small institutions “ZITs”, which had just been admitted into NUZS, of having sabotaged the Conference. He said that some institutions were trying to look upon UNZASU as an inferior organization like a farmers club at a secondary school. NUZS he said, is at the moment incapable of giving effective student leadership without UNZASU. He ordered a walk-out and we walked out leaving the conference with nothing to do.

The reasons could be summarized as follows:
1. We did not want to be victims of 1967 Mulungushi type of political machinations as the institutional regrouping tended to have shown.
2. We did not want to participate in the elections as the outcome of the elections could have been prejudiced by unfounded allegation that UNZASU chief was tampering with the electoral procedure.
3. We did not want the same kind of leadership with varying degree of political, economic and administrative limitations to penetrate NUZS leadership as this would put NUZS back to what it was in the past.
4. We did not want to surrender our position on the importance of coordination in NUZS, as an administrative imperative, to Copperbelts demands on decentralization of personnel.
5. We did not want the infiltration of undesirable political puppets whose sole interests was to use NUZS as a propaganda platform for political indoctrination and machinations.
6. The UNZASU elections are properly conducted and we did not want to deviate from our normal process of electing office holders by involving ourselves too much into “infantile political disorder”.
7. UNZASU contributes more to NUZS in terms of finance as it constitutes the greatest number of students. We saw no reason why UNZASU should be pushed around and fall victim of “bad institutions whose existence has always been at the mercy of UNZASU.

We are capable of standing on our own while NUZS cannot stand without UNZASU. This is a fact.

If NUZS is to survive, part of its leadership must come from this institution. The reasons are obvious. The kind of leadership must be capable of looking at and evaluating national issues critically. I personally have little or no regard for charismatic leadership as it is bound to collapse once those qualities begin to disappear. This is the nature of African politics in general and it puts more confidence in transient leadership qualities, he is bound to fall into confusion. Charismatic qualities must not creep into student politics.

Since elections have been suspended indefinitely, it is now proper for UNZASU to review its role in NUZS. I would suggest that each institution must send its delegates to annual congress according to the number of students it has and the amount of money it subscribes to NUZS.

Only on these grounds will the role of UNZASU in NUZS be justified. This will also determine the kind of leadership that will emerge to lead student affairs otherwise NUZS will continue to play its old symbolic function of “mother body”. It’s up to the student to review the NUZS’ role in national affairs.


I found this document in my old files from 1973. I thought you might find it of historical interest – Mwizenge Tembo

About the Author

The author obtained his B.A in Sociology and Psychology at University of Zambia in 1976, M.A , Ph. D. at Michigan State University in Sociology in 1987. He was a Lecturer and Research Fellow at the Institute of African Studies of the University of Zambia from 1977 to 1990.