UNZA Security Chief Recounts Events that led to Vespers’ Death

University of Zambia Chief Security Officer at the University of Zambia Bwalya Kabelaila has testified before an inquiry into the death of student Verspers Shimuzhila during a riot last year.

And Verspers’ uncle told the inquiry that his niece died of suffocation.

Verspers, a 4th year student in the School of Education, died of suffocation after police officers threw teargas into her room.

An inquest into her death has since been opened.

Testifying during an inquest of inquiry before coroner Sylvia Munyinya, Felistus Shimuzhila said the family came to learn of the probable cause of Verspers’ death after a medical doctor at the University Teaching Hospital availed them a report of the postmortem conducted in their presence.

Kabelaila disclosed that he picked 26 teargas canisters during an inspection in one of the rooms which was gutted by fire at the campus after teargas was fired.

Kabelaila, 44, of New Kasama, however, said he was not aware of any bullet cartridges found at the scene.

The witness said this when he was asked by the deceased’s cousin, Obert Shibenzu, to confirm to the Coroner whether or not he found any teargas canister or bullet cartridge from the scene.

In his testimony, Kabelaila said he recalled very well that on  October 4, 2018 around 22:00 hours, he received a call from then acting Dean of students Grace Tembo who notified him that there was unrest within the campus and that some students were about to go to the roadside.

“I inquired from her what could be the reason and she indicated that she was told by a Mr Nshimbi who lives within the campus that students were talking about the alleged delayed payments of meal allowances. I jumped into my vehicle and drove to the campus. I then called Benjamin Ngwira, a detective officer commanding for Lusaka, informing him what was happening and he promised to mobilize officers,” Kabelaila said.

“Then I called the vice-chancellor Prof Luke Mumba. I also called the registrar Sitali wamundila whose phone went unanswered I called the Deputy Criminal Investigations Officer for Chelston Police Station, a Mr Bwalya. Then I drove to the campus using the road that passes through the School of Mines.”

He said upon arrival, he saw the students running away after they saw the lights of his motor vehicle and he went to the transport department where he met his deputy, Helen Mulenga, who stays within the campus.

She said Mulenga briefed him on what was happening and she called one of the students, a Mr Kalumba, who told them that the noise or the protest was not well coordinated.

Kabelaila said Kalumba indicated that there was a small group of students who had gone to the roadside where they burnt tyres while the majority were within the campus.

“I received a phone call from the officer in charge Chelston police who told me that he had assigned a team of officers to be on the ground and he indicated that the officers had managed to put out the fire from the road side and that the team will be on the look out…,” he explained.

Kabelaila said he later saw a few female students running away from the hostels heading towards Goma Fields which leads them to Kalingalinga compound  but he stopped them and took them to the transport department for safety.

The witness said the situation at campus was calm with only few students making noise but confusion started when he heard some gun shots from the roadside.

Kabelaila said it was at this point that he  called a police officer, a Mr Kumwenda, and informed him that the gunshots the officers were firing had excited the students and advised that the students be monitored.

“There was a long quiet moment or silence around midnight as some of the students started coming back to the hostels and I was standing near the campus  clinic but I later  saw a vehicle  coming in from the Great East road and officers  started firing teargas canisters which resulted in more confusions. I walked  towards the officers  and I identified  one of them as a Mr Zimba. I told him that the teargas that was being fired was causing confusion in the campus,” he told the inquiry

Kabelaila testified that as he was talking to the officer, Mulenga told him that there was fire in one of the hostels and he drove back there.

“…when drove back into the campus, I discovered one of the rooms at October 2 hostel on the upper flow was gutted by fire and then immediately I rushed back to the road side to inform the security room to inform the fire brigade and at that point, I called the Vice Chancellor  indicating that there was fire in one of the hostels,” he said and further disclosed that according to his deputy (Mulenga),  the fire was a result of the teargas and “there were students who were trying to rescue those in the room…”

He said he was later told of an emergency at the clinic and he rushed there and found injured students.

The witness said upon arrival at the clinic he saw some students who were injured walking to the Clinic but one female student was lifted by a male colleague as she could not walk on her own.

He revealed that a rumour later started going round at campus that one of the students had died.

“I was accompanied by a police officer to the Hospital then we met a female medical officer who indicated to us that two female students had been referred there but said one of the students, Verspers Shimuzhila, had passed on and her body had been referred to the University Teaching Hospital and when asked on the probable cause of death, she indicated that it could have been carbon monoxide…She also confirmed that the other student had just suffered multiple fractures,” Kabelaila said.

When cross examined, he was not aware of the number of police vehicles on the ground and who had assigned the officers on the ground “but the most senior I knew was Moffat Zimba, officer commanding Lusaka Urban district”, but later learnt that there was a deputy commanding officer on the ground.

At the close of the testimonies from the witnesses, Coroner Munyinya directed that the state should, in the next sitting, call a medical doctor to testify before other witnesses.

The inquiry has been adjourned to March 1 for continued hearing.


  1. Indoshi Palupe

    F**k the police!

  2. uncle G

    what do we say then,is this police force or police service?Zambia che awe kwena kuti wapapa.

  3. Zambian

    Ba kapokola are the ones who caused the death of this innocent girl. Takuli nefya ma adjournment apa, kusenda fye bonse abaliko noku balonga. If it were the students who killed a police officer? Nga bali blonga but ba police there are moving freely…… Ifya bupuba.

    • John K

      Itx true, that’s not fair…😈😈😈
      They have to be jailed.. Otherwise that girl was innocent ..maybe she was to be a President or a minister..
      People of Zambia let’s be fair

  4. patson

    I pit an innocent soul that has been lost biicozi of the over excited n happy trivger cops who did nt know what job they were supoose to do .if it was to control the situation or to wasten it.the commanding onfficer in charge on thr ground on the day in guestion has alot to exolain.why they had to teargase and throwe them in side defenceless pupils. rooms what was there object in doing such barbaric un human act? may the gud lord help us on how we wish to rule our beatiful nation mather zambia.

  5. Dr Fonicks

    This is a straight forward case. The Police were in the wrong. why should there be adjournments when there is proof that the law enforcement wing was wrong. whoever ordered the throwing of teargas canisters should be held responsible. capwa.

  6. Niza sichone danniel

    May her soul rest in peace.now the police officers should stop firing guns and teargas without the proper investigation,failure to that this problems will not stop.

  7. Images

    Arrest all the commanding officers who were present at the scene, they have to kno who shot the cartridge into that room.

  8. Mn

    That was carelessness on the part of the police officers,how can they fire a tear gas in a small room.police officers need education

  9. Hot water

    I can see justice coming. Surely someone will have to account for the death of that student, and I hope lessons shall be learned by the so called police service ! The job of the police is to arrest offenders and bring them to justice and definitely not to kill them or put people in conditions under which their lives can be endangered or indeed die. I am keenly waiting to hear the submission from the police on that fateful day.

  10. MarCk chileshe

    Very Rip

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