Late Vespers Shimunzhila’s father says despite the trauma of loosing his daughter, all he wants is for justice to prevail.
And the Lusaka Subordinate Court will on September 30, this year, deliver its verdict in Vespers’ inquest hearing to ascertain how she came to her death in 2018.
Meanwhile, a police officer who was in charge of the crack squad during a student riot at the University of Zambia (UNZA) last year, has denied allegations that his team threw teargas canisters that burnt one of the hostels.
This is an inquest hearing before the Lusaka Subordinate Court to ascertain how Vespers came to her death last year.
Vespers, who was a fourth year student at UNZA died in October 2018 after police allegedly burnt one of the hostels using a tear gas canister during a riot over delayed payment of meal allowances.
And when the matter came up for continued hearing before coroner Sylvia Munyinya, Tuesday, Anthony Mulenga, 37, told the court that last year, he was deployed to Force Headquarters under Lusaka Division in charge of crack squad commonly known as C5.
He told the Coroner’s court that whilst on duty on October 4, 2018, he received a call from the call centre around 22:30 hours that there was a disturbance at UNZA main campus.
He said he quickly mobilised his officers and rushed to UNZA, adding that when they got there, it was confirmed that there was a disturbance.
“The road was blocked, the stretch between East Park Mall and UNZA main gate was blocked. Upon seeing us, the irate students started throwing stones at us and we used tear gas canisters to disperse them. They rushed back to their premises and that is how we cleared the way,” Mulenga said.
“In trying to ensure order, we stayed at the main entrance. But later on we heard there was fire in the campus and that one of the hostels had caught fire. So the fire department was called but when they came on site, they could not have access to entrance and they reported that their vehicle had been stoned. So we accompanied them in the University campus.”
Mulenga testified that there were about 30 officers with three land cruisers, adding that the resistance from students was the reason why the fire department had delayed in coming to quench the fire.
He added that they were later informed that there were two students who were critically ill and were rushed to Levy Mwanawasa General Hospital.
Mulenga said he was armed with an AK 47 riffle while his officers were armed with anti riot gear but added that they did not take stock of the material they used because it was an emergency.
He testified that he received information that October hostel was on fire whilst he was at the main entrance.
Mulenga said when he got to the hostel, as an escort of the fire department, fire had already been quenched by students.
When he was questioned by one of the lawyers representing Vespers’ family Lastone Mwanabo, the witness said on that day, they used a Toyota Land Cruiser, and that he was in charge of the crack squad which consisted of 15 officers.
He added that they fired teargas canisters at the University footbridge as there was commotion.
“The only time a green Nissan arrived on that day was past 01 and it was from para military, another crack squad based at Lilayi and Chief inspector Bwalya was in charge,” Mulenga said.
He added that he was able to account for his team because they worked together.
Mulenga confirmed that teargas canisters and handheld grenades were used during the commotion but claimed that he wouldn’t know if that happened before the fire broke out at the hostel.
The witness further denied that his team was the perpetrator of the throwing of the teargas canisters at the hostel.
He added that he was not aware of any other team which would be responsible for throwing the teargas canisters.
Mulenga further said he was no longer in charge of the crack squad.
When the last witness concluded with his testimony, Coroner Munyinya adjourned the matter to September 30, this year, for a verdict.
But after the court was adjourned, Vesper’s father Davison Shimunzhila said all he was praying for was for justice to prevail.
“Nothing else but for justice to prevail. Thats what we are praying for. Despite the trauma, we do believe justice should prevail,” said Shimunzhila.