Vespers Shimunzhila’s mother yesterday burst into tears after a Clinical Officer General from the University of Zambia Clinic told the Coroners’ Court that he did not find any life in her daughter after carrying out an examination.
And a third year Law student at the University of Zambia has testified that when the students carried Vespers from her room to the campus clinic, she was unresponsive.
The 26-year-old further testified that Vespers was found in a squatting position in her room which was quite smoky.
This is an inquest hearing before the Lusaka Subordinate Court to ascertain how the UNZA student, Vespers Shimuzhila, came to her death last year.
Vespers, who was a fourth year student at UNZA died in October last year after the police allegedly burnt one of the hostels using a tear gas canister during a student riot over delayed payment of meal allowances.
Testifying before coroner Sylvia Munyinya, Thursday, Micheal Mudenda Simukumbwa, 48, a clinical officer at the University of Zambia clinic, testified that on October 5, 2018, he was on duty when a lady by the name of Vespers Shimunzhila aged 24, was brought to the clinic around 02:00 hours.
Simukumbwa testified that he was informed by a nurse that Vespers was in a critical state.
He told the Coroners’ Court that when he went to see Vespers who was lying on the examination couch, he discovered that her clothes were covered in black substance which was powder like.
Simukumbwa said when he examined Vespers eyes, her pupils were fully dilated and were not responding to light.
He added that he also observed that there was no spontaneous activity in her and there was no heart beat or pulse rate.
“She was in a white vest and bum short but had a chitenge material wrapped around her. Since she was not talking, I quickly had to establish whether there was life or no life. I started by examining her eyes, her pupils were fully dilated and were not responding to light. I also observed that there was no spontaneous activity in her,” Simukumbwa said.
“So I got my stethoscope to check if the heart was beating, I found there was no heart beat. And the pulse was also not there. Her chest was also not rising up and down to signify breathing. And there were also no neurology responses, when I touched the feet there was no movement.”
Simukumbwa told the Coroners’ Court that when he tried to press Vespers chest to see if he could stimulate the heart, some dark substances came out through her mouth.
He testified that he did not find life in her at this stage and without wasting time, recommended that the patient be taken to Levy Mwanawasa hospital.
“I managed to open her mouth by pressing her jaw, but the tongue was extremely dark. I tried to press the chest to see if I could stimulate the heart, as I pressed the chest some dark substances came out through her mouth. I did not find life with her at this stage. Without wasting time, I recommended that the patient be taken to Levy Mwanawasa hospital,” he said.
When Simukumbwa concluded with his testimony, Vespers’ mother started weeping and some relatives and friends had to help her go out of court.
She only returned to the court room after she had composed herself.
And when Simukumbwa was questioned by one of the lawyers representing Vespers’ family Lastone Mwanabo what the situation on the campus was like on that day, Simukumbwa said there was a lot of tear gas smoke which caused some students to faint.
“There were a lot of police officers and a lot of tear gas smoke which was even coming to the clinic. Even us we could get the tear gas smoke. A lot of students were running in all directions trying to find peace. Some were even fainting,” he said.
Meanwhile, Muma Emmanuel, a 26-year-old third year Law student at the University of Zambia testified that on October 5, 2018, around 01:00 hours, he was in one of the female hostels when he heard some students screaming that there was a fire.
“For sure I found there was fire on the third floor of October block two,” he said.
Muma testified that he immediately rushed to his room which was Mwanawasa block, where he picked a bucket and rushed back to the scene to try and quench the fire.
He said he was joined by other students who also tried to quench the fire.
Muma said the students did that for about 20 minutes but stopped when police officers started firing tear gas canisters at them.
“We did this for over 20 minutes because the fire was quite big. While doing this, the police fired canisters towards October block where we were and we were forced to stop and run away,” he said.
Muma said when the students managed to reduce the fire to the level where they could walk through the hostel passages, they decided to go and check in the rooms to see whether there was anyone that was left behind.
He said when they checked Vespers room, they found her in a squatting position and decided to take her to the campus clinic.
“We then checked the last room which was room 25. On the left side of the room there was no one, we checked on the right side and I found a lady in a squatting position between the bed and the table of that room. The room was quite smoky and we did not stay long,” he said.
“Immediately we saw her, we picked her up and rushed her down stairs to look for transport. We managed to get transport from the security wing at UNZA and rushed her to UNZA clinic where she was attended to but there was no response in terms of her consciousness.”
Muma said when there was no response from Vespers at the clinic, they were referred to Levy Mwanawasa hospital.
He said when they reached there, they were informed that she was already dead.
“When we got to Levy, they placed her on a bed. The female doctor we found asked the nurse to get a machine and the doctor eventually said ‘there was no need to use the machine (because) its a BID and we have to sign BID forms’. She mentioned that the mortuary at Levy was full and we should take her to the mortuary at UTH. She was then taken to UTH,” said Muma.
In cross examination, Muma disclosed that between the hostels and the clinic, there were no movements from Vespers.