On 4th October 2018 at 22:50 hrs, a riot broke out at the University of Zambia (UNZA) Great East Road Campus. It ended the next morning, 5th October 2018 at 05:00. The riot was a reaction to ‘apparently’ delayed student allowances which the institution, together with the government claim was not actually delayed. The Zambia Police in all their excited, angry and underpaid glory were called in to assist in controlling the situation.
A few minutes later, a young, vibrant, and beautiful 4th-year student by the name of Vespers Shimuzhila, with only a breath away from her graduation died in her room as a result of suffocation from a teargas canister that was thrown into her room by the very professional men in uniform hired by the state and paid with taxpayers money to ‘control’ the situation.
The very next morning, another student by the name of Evelyn Choongo was rushed to the hospital as a result of injuries she sustained post-rioting. She is still recovering from the gruesome wounds. 21 other students were treated for minor injuries at the university clinic.
Was the riot justified in any way? Why did the students assume the allowances were delayed? Did the police do their job of ‘controlling’ the situation, or like inexperienced adrenaline-driven hoodlums with inferiority complexes bigger than the ‘cash’ they generate from all the illegal roadblocks they set-up only made the situation worse?
Most Important Questions?
Who killed Vespers Shimuzhila? Was it the unruly students rioting by Great East road that miraculously managed to cause harm to an innocent peace-loving student hiding away in her room? Or, could it have been the teargas that was deliberately thrown into her room in an attempt to fish out all the students that had opted to stay away from trouble?
What business did the police have trying to fish out students that were clearly not involved in the rioting? If at all they believed that some of the rioting students had ran back to their rooms, which part of their brains (the left or right hemisphere) made it justifiable for them to randomly throw canisters into tiny little rooms that have little to no ventilation to begin with?
What was most important to the police; to bring about order or to end lives? Which part of their military-like strategy gave them the idea that throwing tear gas into rooms of both rioting and non-rioting students would bring the situation under control?
Bottom line here is that a life was taken prematurely. And someone needs to pay for that. Now, I understand that there are very angry and frustrated people out there. These fall into two categories; the innocent people whose vehicles get damaged when students decide to take to the road to express their anger against the weak government that is being run by the Patriotic Front (PF). These ones I believe are justified in their fury and concerns.
On the other hand are the frustrated people that for some reason could not make it into the highest institution of learning in the country. These ones are bitter. They loathe anything to do with UNZA. They rejoice at whatever misfortune falls on students at the institution. I sympathize with these. My prayer is that where their IQ is short, they at least make up for it with their EQ. And if at all the issue isn’t brain-related, my hope is that they stop despising others for a blessing that they could not get when they needed or wanted it. Get over it already. A life has just been taken for Pete’s sake!
That being said, none of this is important right now. What is important is the call for justice for the unfortunate demise of a student. She was not supposed to die. No one was supposed to die. But someone died. No matter which political party you belong to or which college or university you went to, there should be a part in all of your human anatomy that should be calling for justice.
When asked by a journalist to comment on the death of Vespers, this is what our humble president croaked out;
Remember there is a saying that ubushiku mukote alubile elo chimbwi chanya imfwi, you know Bemba, what does that tell you? An old woman disappears from the village, the next day a hyena defecates white hair. I think Madam Siliya made a comment, we are waiting, we don’t want to speculate, thank you.
No condolences were offered to the grieving family. Nothing. He simply purged out some politically correct venom and bounced away.
On the other hand, the infamous Dora Siliya, Minister of whatever Ministry lies in her head, madam govt spokesperson…. a woman I strongly believe does not deserve the position she holds in government. This human being had the nerve to post the following on her twitter account;
Naturally, you would expect the whole minister of her to have answers to these questions but clearly, she doesn’t. How in Jupiter’s name did they expect the students to know when they would be paid their allowances when the union that is responsible for disseminating such information was shut down?
Do I think the students were justified in their rioting? NO, I don’t think so. I believe they could have found some other means of gaining information on their pay. Do I think the government is telling the truth when they say that the payments where being processed? Again, Hell to the NO. Remember, this is the same government that misappropriated the Cash Transfer Money intended for the poor. They stole from the people they promised to serve and protect. And they did so with impunity. Then they fired someone for it, even apologized to the donors…only to claim a few days later that the money had miraculously appeared in some Zanaco bank account.
Something always smells fishy with this government. Why would anyone keep money meant for the poor intact in some mysterious bank account instead of putting it to the intended use? And you wonder why I think Dora Siliya has no business holding any position in life that requires the use of her brain? Our government clearly thinks that we are dull. If you don’t find that insulting, then you are simply not human.
The ever clueless minister was asking why the students were demonstrating at night. Let me ask this; is there a right time of the day to demonstrate? By the way, where there even any cars damaged during this particular riot? I have not seen any such reports of damaged property. As far as I know, it was a peaceful protest that did not deserve such brute force in reaction from the popo. Only an innocent human was killed…and ironically, by the good guys!
To answer her last question;
Honorable Minister, the Zambia Police is responsible for Vespers’ death.
Yes, the students rioted but did any one of them riot from their rooms? NO. The police left the rioting students by the road and went for the non-rioting students in the rooms. Which part isn’t clear to you and the president so far? When Vespers family cries for justice, are you going to look them in the eye and arrogantly tell them that ubushiku mukote alubile elo chimbwi chanya imfwi?
The issue here is that an innocent life was taken.
Vespers’ death could have happened to anyone. Just because she is…was an Unza student does not make her death justifiable. There is no law against being an Unza student. I am a proud product of that institution despite its short-comings. Just like Vespers, I too was almost killed by teargas suffocation while hiding out from police retaliation during a protest in my first year. I was fresh on campus, a coward that went into hiding while other students went out to make their grievances heard. The cops wanted me and other students that had not even seen the riot coming to come out of hiding so we could be picked up by them, brutally manhandled, and then arrested for God knows what. It is a crime to riot but it is a much worse crime to hide out because when you do, they will come for you with their tear gas.
The debate shouldn’t be about whether the students had grounds to riot or not. The debate should be about whether the cops were justified in throwing tear gas into tiny little spaces that accommodate more than four students at a go. Instead of throwing disrespectful idioms into the wind, the president should be discussing better ways of handling such situations by the police to avoid future casualties. Better yet, train the police force better. Instead of constantly buying ministers bigger and fancier vehicles, invest in salaries for the police because these people are extremely frustrated, rude, arrogant, corrupt, and sometimes just plain lazy.
President Lungu argues that had there not been a riot in the first place, the killing wouldn’t have occurred. My argument is that had the police been trained right and disciplined, Vespers would still be alive. The president thinks Vespers deserved to die. You rioted, she died, so what? Not my business. Because she is a student at Unza, she had to pay the price for her rioting mates. Otherwise, why would he use such a proverb/idiom and at this particular time? It is very unfair and uncalled for to everyone mourning the loss of this young life.
Let me reiterate; the issue right now isn’t about why students rioted or whether they had rights to do so or not. It is about police conduct. Did the police carry out their duties in the right manner? Were they right in firing tear gas canisters into student rooms? What was the whole point of firing them? Was it to fish out the students? And if the students did come out of their rooms, what system or method were the police going to use to separate perpetrators from non-perpetrators? And most importantly, what would be the treatment of these students as they underwent investigations? Would they be treated as suspects or criminals? Exactly on what grounds would their arrests be?
Dear Zambia Police, this blood is on your hands. Own up.