A SOLEMN atmosphere characterised the church service for Vespers Shimuzhila yesterday at the UNZA SDA congregation on Katima Mulilo Road. And chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya escaped lynching by UNZA students who showered her with invectives, and telling her she was not welcome at the funeral procession.
UNZA students sang various gospel and solidarity songs as they waited for the arrival of Vespers’ body. Her life was cut short last Thursday after riot police teargased students’ hostels, resulting in her suffocation. Singing ‘Kumanda takuya ababwela’, the students clad in black and carrying banners bearing Vespers’ portrait, marched some two kilometres from the University of Zambia campus to the Seventh Day Adventist Church on Katima Mulilo Road.
The students peacefully conducted the procession as their leaders controlled traffic to pave way for the marching party. Thousands, from all walks of life, gathered at the congregation to witness the send-off. The church was too small to accommodate everyone and a larger group followed the proceedings from outside through a public address system. Master Guides and Pathfinders sent the church into weeping as Vespers’ remains were brought into the church with a mounted guard of honour.
Her childhood friend struggled to give a moving tale of Vespers’ life history and that was another heartbreaking moment that sent mourners, both inside and outside, into uncontrollable wailing.
And after the church service, students booed Siliya, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting, who was representing the government at the funeral. The students showered Siliya with unprintables as she made her way to her ministerial vehicle. Siliya, who had just paid her last respects, was escorted to her car by a handful of UNZA PF security as other students ‘dressed her down’.
The students told her that she was not welcome, alleging that the government was the cause of the death of their colleague. Scared, Dora was submissively dragged to her car which unfortunately was parked very far from the church.
“Your presence is not welcome, hule iwe…why did you come here? You are the cause of her death, your government killed Vespers…you bitch, what do you want here?” said the students while attempting to beat her up.
“Chisiyeni tuchimenye, hule iwe, what do you want here? Imwe vima cadres, why are you protecting her? Guys she is stupid, why did she come here? Iwe chi hule, what do you want?”
Later, Siliya responded to her treatment at church through Twitter.
“I attended the service for Vespers. Mostly calm but a few drunk students who feel shouting unpalatables at Government serves them well. We need dialogue on how to fund higher education going forward. Taxpayers supporting drunkenness and violence at UNZA can’t continue,” stated Siliya.
Meanwhile, UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, who was in attendance, wondered how the government would blame him for failing to honour their obligations to the student welfare.
He said President Lungu, home affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo and Police Inspector General Kakoma Kanganja were the reason Vespers died, “thus the government should not blame me for their unprofessional conduct”.
“First and foremost, we all agree that Vespers was killed in the room, not at the road side, that’s the fact. The second fact is that she was killed via teargas suffocation and the room was burnt…by who? Is it in contention? It’s by the police. Who is responsible for commanding the police? It’s the Inspector General of Police. Does he work for Hakainde? Next in line is the Home Affairs Minister…who does he work for? Hakainde? Third in line is Mr Lungu himself, these are the people who were irresponsible…very simple and clear, that’s the reason Simuzhila is not here anymore. It’s because of this unprofessional conduct and the brutal, oppressive conduct of the PF,” said Hichilema.
And the Law Association of Zambia condemned the excessive force used by the police officers who followed students in their rooms.
In a statement, the Council of the Law Association of Zambia stated that government was expected to support Shimuzhila’s family.
LAZ called on the Kanganja to institute prompt and thorough investigations into the incident and to make the findings public.
“Any officer who will be found wanting should face the law,” stated LAZ. “LAZ also expects that this incident will not end quietly but that justice will be done in the matter. LAZ intends to reach out to the deceased student’s family to provide the requisite legal support to ensure that ends of justice is met.”
Shimuzhila will be put to rest today in Kantengwa, Namwala.