UNZA student sues state for compensation for broken limbs, spine sustained in a 2018 riot

SECOND year student at the University of Zambia Everet Chongo, who jumped out of the window on the third floor of her hostel in an attempt to escape a fire that spread in her room during a riot in 2018, has sued the state in the Lusaka High Court demanding compensation for the broken limbs and spine she sustained in the process.

Chongo has cited the Attorney General as the respondent in the matter.

In a statement of claim, Chongo stated that on October 4, 2018, students rioted over delayed payment of meal allowances by government around 22:00 at UNZA main campus on Great East Road.

She said police officers who rushed to UNZA to calm the situation fired teargas in student hostels in an attempt to disperse them.

Chongo said the canisters which were fired in her room, in October hostel, fell on a mattress and ignited a fire after it combined with noxious gasses and made it difficult for her to breath.

The incident caused the death of fourth year student Vespers Shimunzhila due to suffocation.

Chongo said she was forced to jump out of the window on the third floor of October hostel to escape the fire that spread rapidly in her room and she sustained injuries in the process.

“The plaintiff sustained a broken back, complications in her legs as well as loss of personal belongings as a result of the fire that broke out in the room,” Chongo said.

She stated that following the incident, she was flown to South Africa for medical attention and was accompanied by her mother and medical expenses were footed by government.

Chongo said she was diagnosed with unstable fracture on the lumber spine, comminuted fracture left calcaneus, comminuted fracture dislocation of the right tibial plafond (distal tibia/pilon) fracture and a fractured right calcaneus undisplaced.

“The plaintiff was prematurely discharged and was scheduled to return for a review in June 2020 to remove implants in her left foot and right ankle. Despite several requests for financial assistance, government has not provided any assistance to facilitate her return to South Africa for review,” Chongo said.

She contended that her family has not been compensated in any way neither has government contributed financially towards the medical expenses she incurred.

Chongo is horrified that as a result of the acts and omissions by government, she will suffer a permanent deterioration on her physical condition.

She complained of suffering a setback in her tuition which had resulted in increased personal expenses.

Chongo stated that she had made several attempts to request financial assistance from government to facilitate her return to South Africa for review to no avail.

“Despite several demands, government has failed, neglected and refused to provide any compensation or support for any expenses incurred or loss suffered by the plaintiff,” she stated.

Chongo said particulars of negligence by the state were that it failed to ensure the safety of the students whilst trying to disperse rioters, throwing teargas canisters in student hostels, failing to ensure that she received urgent medical attention when she jumped out of the window.

She is demanding compensatory damages, exemplary damages, damages for pain and suffering to be assessed by the court, damages to future prospective earnings, punitive damages to be assessed by the court and any other relief the court may deem fit.

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