The loss of life at any level is tragic and regrettable; I blame Minister of Home Affairs and the Police Command, says Lusaka lawyer Kelvin Bwalya Fube. And UNZA lecturers say the failure by government and the university management to condemn “in strongest terms” police’s conduct during riots at the Great East Road Campus last Thursday night is unfortunate.
Commenting on police action to fire teargas in students’ rooms at the University of Zambia on Thursday night which resulted in a loss of life and injuries, KBF said the deed was brutal and excessive. UNZA students on Thursday night rioted over delayed meal allowance but police intervened by firing teargas at students’ hostels, causing the death of a fourth-year student, Vespers Simuzhila.
Another student, Evelyn Choongo, fractured her legs and spine after she jumped from the third floor of her hostel following a fire in one of the rooms while several others were treated for minor injuries and discharged from the UNZA clinic.
“The loss of life at any level is tragic and regrettable. I condemn the police action as brutal and excessive. These kinds of things must not be allowed to continue. I blame the Minister of Home Affairs (Stephen Kampyongo) and the Police Command. Students are not armed…when we were students, we also demonstrated,” KBF, a PF member, said, but Kampyongo and the police command could not comment on his accusations as they were unavailable by print time.
He said the government was to blame for the lack of foresight and planning as they knew that the students were coming back to school. KBF said the boys and girls at Zambia’s highest school of learning were hungry and needed to eat to survive.
“Government ultimately is to blame for the lack of foresight and planning ahead. They knew the students were coming …so why not have their money ready? There is nothing more motivating than the will to survive. Those boys and girls were hungry. They needed to eat. And then we send police to go and crush their will to live. Who does that?” he asked.
KBF said what transpired was shameful and must not be allowed knowing that President Edgar Lungu, who was once at UNZA, knew about student politics.
“The President was at UNZA…I have been there too, we both know student politics…I don’t know about the Minister of Home Affairs and the Police Command. It is a real shame. My heart goes out to the family of the late young student and the entire UNZA fraternity. The lecturers are hurting too…this I know. I pray for calm and real leadership from the students. I wish I was home I could have visited the funeral home. These kind of things must not be allowed. My condolences to the family and all her friends and the entire UNZA fraternity,” said KBF.
Meanwhile, University of Zambia Lecturers’ and Researchers’ Union, in a statement issued by president Dr Evans Lampi and his general secretary Dr Kelvin Mambwe, stated that they had noted with “utter shock and disappointment” the manner in which government and the University management had “sacrificed truth on the altar of political correctness and expediency” concerning the circumstances directly linked to the death of a student, Vespers.
UNZA management and the police condemned the students for the riots. In reaction to police’s handling of the riots, UNZALARU stated that press statements by the University management and the Police were overly insensitive to the memory of Vespers as both downplayed the sacredness of life. The union lamented that both statements were deliberately crafted to demonise students as merely riotous.
“University of Zambia Lecturers’ and Researchers’ Union (UNZALARU) wishes to express its heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies to the Shimuzhila family, the University of Zambia students and academic members of staff on the tragic death of Vespers Shimuzhila, a Fourth Year student in School of Education, at the University of Zambia. We note with a deep sense of sorrow and regret that a life of a student for whom UNZA as an institution of learning was established could be lost in such brutal and bizarre circumstances,” UNZALARU stated.