(The Coalition for the Advancement of Quality Education and the Consolidated Public Universities Students Union wants government to suspend the collection of debt university students owe government)
Court Clerk: Mr Banidiki Kandaule, executive director of the Coalition for the Advancement of Quality Education; can you step forward please? We know from the previous court appearance that you are a Christian; hence, for the purpose of this oath, you will use the Bible to say after me that I Banidiki Kandaule, (Kandaule repeats after the court clerk), solemnly swear that the evidence that I shall give shall be the truth and nothing but the truth so help me God.
Kandaule: So help me God!
Judge Mbadwa: Mr Kandaule, your coalition and the Consolidated Public Universities Students are against government’s decision to collect the money former students owe government following the loans they took when they were in college. What compelling reasons do you have that should move this tribunal to stop an important exercise that has started in earnest?
Kandaule: My Lord, we agree that the debt collection that government has embarked on is an important exercise. We are also aware of the legal requirement that binds one to pay back loans they accesses legally.
But what we are not comfortable with my Lord is the manner in which this whole thing has been hijacked by self-serving government officials who are sweeping under the carpet real problems to unmask the lack of accountability in this regime.
My Lord, we believe Mapuya’s government has no moral high ground to ask former students to pay back the loans most of which they got during the reign of the Yellow Party of Atcheya while a big financial mess the Undemocratic Progressive Movement has overseen is not yet cleared.
My Lord, this government has overseen the plunder of K577 billion between 2009 and 2014. This is money that can significantly transform the ailing education and health sectors of the country. Government should first account for that money before they start talking about collecting loans from former students who are paying tax to the same government that plunders it. Then, there is the issue of Cashgate; and that government is failing to recoup its money is well-documented. Why can’t it put all its energy in recovering the Cashgate money and assets first?
What about the K34 billion which councils are failing to account for and the $2 million that was wasted when it bought equipment which were kept as if it were artefact? Then there is about K7 billion in toxic assets of the Malawi Savings Bank; why hasn’t government recovered anything as promised? These are serious issues that need immediate attention. It is only when this issue has been addressed that we will ask former students to pay back the loans otherwise it is a no! no! No! Thank you My Lord.
Mbadwa: University students have an obligation to pay back the loans they got and that will eventually happen provided the circumstances under which they obtained the loans satisfy the requirements to legally term them as such. As to when and how they will pay them, it is this court’s view that the board mandated to collect debt will have to wait until government has accounted for the K557 billion, Cashgate money, the K34 billion which councils abused and after government itself has paid back the billions of kwacha it owes to suppliers, contractors and service providers. The students loan payment exercise will not be antecedent to the above stated commitment by government. Ruling made on this day April 17 2016 in judge Mbadwa’s chambers. n
With Emmanuel Luciano