The Young Women Christian Association (YWCA) has condemned UNZA students who insulted Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya on Monday when she joined the institution in a requiem mass organised for Vespers Shimuzhila.

And NGOCC executive director Engwase Mwale fears that the conduct by UNZA students towards the minster would further reinforce the discrimination which discourages women from taking up leadership positions.

When she attended the requiem service for the late Shimuzhila at UNZA SDA Church on Monday, students accosted the Siliya and called her prostitute, among other unpalatable names, while others jostled to have a piece of her, but minister remained calm until she was whisked away.

But YWCA said government should have sent a less famous person to represent the State at the former student’s funeral instead of the Chief Government Spokesperson, explaining that Siliya’s presence at the funeral was provocative.

“It’s unfortunate that an incidence such as that one happened at the funeral. But you know the circumstances which led to that. If I were in the shoes of those who were being pointed at and seen as having compromised the situation, it is better not to even go there. You know when somebody is angry, they can do and say anything. But definitely, we do not support the use of palatable type of language or insults, be it towards a young person or an old person, we do not. Yes the University of Zambia yesterday was definitely non partisan because the students were merely escorting their friend so that she can rest in peace and that anger was as a result of the way the whole situation happened. It was still brewing and people were still hurt. But that is not excuse to use bad language,” YWCA national president Lucy Lungu said.

“What you could normally do in such a situation, being human, they would have probably sent the low profiles representatives. That’s one way of doing it but of course they could have even put a message as to why they are not able to do that because this is not the first time it happened. On Friday (October 05), I am sure you also followed that story where the presence of [Minister of Higher Education] honourable Nkandu Luo was also not accommodated by the students. So a lesson should have been learnt from that day to ay ‘if this is like this, then it may be worse on the day of burial’. And this is what happens in most cases, not only yesterday’s but it happens in most cases where there are certain circumstances relating to the case of somebody dying. It makes it worse because there was no clear apology from the government, so that is another thing that could have caused that. But definitely, the point is that there is no excuse to insult anybody. It shouldn’t be accepted.”

Lungu hoped that everyone had learnt their lesson from the incident.

“It is my hope that we can learn from this incident, all us including the politicians and even the students themselves so that it does not happen again. And again we just need to make sure that the root cause of this is addressed. The problem with us in Zambia is that we forget about route causes, we want to crossover before solving one problem. So as it is now, I will not be surprised to see [investigation into] the death of our student just dies a natural death. But I am just hoping that we have learnt a lesson for now, both the government, the students and all of us civil society to see how we can move forward without losing a life where we can protect it,” Lungu said.

She also wondered why the students did not harass and insult the male government officials who accompanied Siliya to the funeral.

“Though the student and most of us are still angry at how Vespers lost her life, YWCA strongly condemns the humiliation of Hon Dora Siliya at the funeral service of the late Vespers. We are working towards ending GBV and in both cases we see GBV being committed with impunity. The men who were with Hon Dora Siliya were also representing the government but they were not harassed, why? The action can easily repeat itself if government does not correct the obvious root causes of the violence,” said Lungu.

Meanwhile, NGOCC executive director Engwase Mwale feared that the conduct by UNZA students towards the minster would further reinforce the entrenched patriarchy that systematically discriminates and discourages women from taking up leadership positions.

“The unreasonable conduct of the students was not only disrespectful to the minister but also very demeaning to to women’s leadership. The sexist insults against Hon Siliya go further to reinforce the entrenched patriarchy that systematically discriminates and discourages women from participating in various decision making positions. While we respect the right to freedom of expression and positive criticism, we strongly condemn the use of insults and demeaning language against leaders, female leaders,” stated Mwale.

“This trend is also prevalent on social media where we continuously witness many women being subjected to cyber bullying. We therefore call upon the student populace and society at large to support Zambia’s cause for women in leadership. The death of Vespers is without doubt painful, however, we urge Zambians to remain calm as the security agencies investigate this matter to its logical conclusion. We also wish to urge government to expedite the inquest in the death of Vespers to ensure that whoever is responsible is brought to book without further delay.”