The Coroner has returned an open verdict on the death of University of Zambia (UNZA) student Vespers Shimunzhila who died during riots that occurred after delayed payments of meal allowances.

And Shimunzhila’s father Davison has vowed to continue seeking legal advice to take the matter further as this was not the end.

This was in an inquest hearing before the Lusaka Magistrates Court to ascertain how Shimuzhila died.

Vespers, who was a fourth year student in the School of Education at UNZA died in October 2018, after the police burnt one of the hostels using a teargas canister.

When the matter came up for judgment yesterday, magistrate Sylvia Munyinya established that the cause of death was asphyxia due to smoke.

She said it was not clear at what point Vespers died but that she was alive on October 4, 2018 during the riot while she was searching for the keys to the door as she attempt to escape the room.

Magistrate Munyinya said Vespers died between 22:00 hours on October 4, 2018 and 04:00 hours on October 5, 2019.

“She might have died in her room, on the way to the compass clinic or at Levy Mwanawasa hospital,” she said.

Magistrate Munyinya said police who responded to the riot at the institution discharged teargas at the hostel which caused the fire as they were the only ones armed.

She said though it was so, the officers are not known.

“On whether or not there is someone to charge for her death, It is difficult to point out a particular officer but only police officers were armed.they fired teargas at windows knowing that property would be damaged. This leaves much to be desired,” she said.

Magistrate Munyinya said the conduct by police was retrogressive and needed to be checked.

She said police should take serious investigations, institution examination and endeavor to maintain law and order in a professional manner.

And magistrate Munyinya advised students to avoid such fatalities in future by resorting to civilised ways of airing grievances that will not breach peace.

“Having not established the identity of the person who can be charged for the death of the deceased, I return an open verdict,” she said.

The verdict means coroner Munyinya confirms that the death was suspicious but unable to establish who to charge for the death of the student.

Meanwhile, Shimunzhila said though his family has been heart broken, he was happy the culprits were known though collectively.

He said evidence was clear that his daughter died of unnatural causes.

“As a family, we have a long way to go until full justice prevails, there is no way this matter can end here. We will continue to seek legal advice to take the matter further,” he said.


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