Businessmen of Asian origin in Mzuzu have faulted the Malawi Police for repeatedly failing to control situations that involve angry crowds in the city.
The traders made the remarks on Friday after police tussled with bicycle taxi operators who had refused to stop plying their trade within the city’s central business district (CBD).
According to the shop owners, the police usually fail to control the crowd when there are running battles which they say only worsens the situation and consequently leads to many people getting injured.
“Today, the situation was simple that people wouldn’t have gotten injured. The problem is that our Police always believe in using force to calm situations. Usually this only turns out to worsen the situation,” said Muhammad Patel, owner of PSB containers.
Another business owner, Osman Salim blamed the cops for using teargas in order to calm down every chaotic situation saying that sometimes the gas makes people get violent.
“I remember on 20 July in 2011, people got more violent because the police tried to scare them with the same teargas. The result was that people started to brave the teargas and began breaking into our shops. We believe this wouldn’t have happened if the police were professional.”
“Once people get used to these things they will never fear the police that is why you see them pelting stones at them. Today’s situation was not worthy of teargas,” he said.
The traders also claims that they were tensed up with the situation considering the fact that on 20 July, 2011 another chaotic situation resulted into the looting of their shops.
They urged Malawian cops to use skills they gained during their training in controlling the crowd in times of chaos.
On Friday, part of Mzuzu city turned into a war zone such that one Police officer was reportedly beaten by the angry bicycle taxi operators.
The Kabanza owners went on to disturb business of the day because they blocked most of the roads leading in and outside of the city. As if this was not enough, most shop owners closed their shops fearing that some people will start looting.
In interviews after the riots, the Kabanza operators complained that the cops treat them like animals.
“We don’t know the reason we are being chased like dogs in our own city. We try to operate Kabanza as one way of avoiding to be thieves but when we come in town we are being chased as if we are dogs. That is unacceptable to us as citizens,” said Samuel Jere, one of the Kabanza operators in the city.
Another one, John Zimba, told our reporter that the police are already keeping hundreds of bicycles they seized from other Kabanza operators and they are failing to provide valid reasons for subjecting them to such unfair business environment.
“We thought with the going away of officer Nyondo we would have some relief but they are still on our neck. Why such treatment? Do they want us to turn to thieves? This is unfair,” complained Zimba.
Several attempts to get the other side of the story from police publicist for the northern region Maurice Chapola proved futile because he failed to pick up our calls.
However, calm was restored in the late hours of Friday across the city by fully armed police officers who were seen in their vehicle moving around the city.
Last year, the police were also blamed for failing to control crowd trouble at a football ground where they ended up shooting fans with live bullets.