THE Zambia National Students Union has demanded the arrest of police officers responsible for the death of UNZA fourth year student Vespers Shimunzhila during riots last Thursday. And the students’ body has called for the reinstatement of unions in universities which have been banned by government.
ZANASU has said reckless statements by government officials or anyone on the death of Vespers Shimunzhila and the happenings at the University of Zambia are only serving to fuel anger at the wanton disregard for human life. Vespers died following a protest over delayed meal allowances at the UNZA on Thursday, last week.
Another student, Evelyn Choongo, was left with broken limbs and spine after she jumped from the third floor of her hostel to escape a fire caused by teargas. Police officers moved in to quell the protest and fired teargas into students’ hostels which suffocated Vespers, who was in her room, according to witnesses. During a briefing yesterday, ZANASU congress chairperson Linda Ngambi implored the government to hold those responsible to account.
She called on the government to compensate the families of Vespers and all those injured as a result of the police clampdown.
“Reckless statements by either the government officials or anyone are only serving to fuel the anger at this wanton disregard for human life. If nothing else, this incident clearly highlights the need for students’ unions as a vehicle through which student grievances can be resolved peacefully,” Ngambi said.
“…bring the police officers responsible for the death of Vespers and the injuries of all the other victims to book.”
She said the government should compensate the families of Shimunzhila and all those injured as a result of the police action.
“Ensure that meal allowances are paid on time at the beginning of each month by revising the payment schedule and the loans scholarship contract form; renovate the burnt October Hostel at UNZA. During protests by students’ police officers should only be posted on the periphery of the universities,” Ngambi said.
She asked the government to declare places like clinics and student hostels safe zones in the event of student unrest in higher learning institutions. Ngambi also asked the government to cease the beating of students and release the report in the police brutality that occurred at the Copperbelt University on December 7, 2017 and bring the perpetrators to book.
Ngambi also asked the government to lift the suspension or banning of student unions and allow students to choose the form of leadership they wanted as opposed to the “Luo Guild Leadership Model” which had been rejected by students’ unions across the country.
Higher education minister Nkandu Luo on Wednesday told parliament that unionism in universities will remain banned.