A SENIOR superintendent has told the coroner that the flying squad that was assigned to UNZA when students protested over delayed meal allowances was armed. Testifying in an inquest that has been opened to ascertain the death of UNZA student Vespers Shimunzhila, Moffat Zimba, a commanding officer at Lusaka police headquarters, told coroner Sylvia Munyanya that no weapon was used by police officers when he went to the University of Zambia as he found the officers had already calmed the situation.
Zimba told the public hearing that when he drove to UNZA main campus, he met former Lusaka Province deputy police commissioner who instructed him to take over the operations.
“A security officer told me and other officers that one of the rooms was on fire. Around 01:00 hours, I saw an ambulance drive out of the school and I was informed by police intelligence officer that one of the students had suffocated due to smoke in one of gutted rooms and was rushed to the University Teaching Hospital,” he explained.
Zimba said it was reported the following day that the student who was rushed to hospital had died. He told the coroner that according to his knowledge, the tear gas canisters that were fired by police officers were aimed at dispersing the students so that they could retreat their charge towards the police and go to their rooms. He claimed that no police officers were within the premises of the learning institution during the incident.
“ I don’t know if anti-riot guns were used inside the school premises as I didn’t enter the university neither did the officers because they were paraded at the gate,” Zimba said.
Zimba said that the police officers that were assigned to UNZA were armed with anti-riot guns, tear gas canisters and hand held grenades. Vespers, who was a fourth year student at the University of Zambia, suffocated to death on October 5, 2018 after police officers fired teargas canisters in her room.
Hearing continues on 27 and 28 May 2019.