By Synd Kalimbuka
Four children fainted after police fired teargas in residential areas in Zomba during running battles between the police and minibus drivers.
The minibus drivers were demonstrating against fuel hike and Coronavirus prevention measures. The chaos started when some drivers and nearby communities from Chinamwali and Matawale blocked the M3 road, burning tyres and stoning vehicles.
The situation prompted police to disperse them by firing teargas. The situation got out of hand especially at Chinamwali and Matawale townships where the police went into residential areas and fired teargas.
It was like a war zone as everyone started running away including women and children. Elderly people were collapsing in the process of trying to protect themselves from what they described as residential war by men in uniforms.
The Malawi24 reporter at the scene saw four children who fainted due to the teargas in Matawale. Our reporter also saw police vehicle carrying a woman suspected to have had health problem.
The men in uniform also brutally beat up residents in the township. Pasa Tchale is one of the innocent victims of police brutality who described the conduct of the police as unprofessional.
“I was going home from direction of Zomba city on my push bikes not knowing what is happening. Unfortunately, over 10 police officers started beating me without telling me the reason,” he lamented.
Police officers both armed and with canisters were almost everywhere at Zomba Chinamwali, Matawale, Habitat and Chakhaza.
The situation forced all shop owners at Matawale, Chinamwali and surrounding areas to close all shops.
Residents from Chinamwali, Matawale and Naisi took advantage of blocking the main road demanding money a minimum of K2, 000 from drivers to allow them to pass through with their vehicles.
The commotion took over five hours before the situation came back to normal.
Police in the district also arrested some people in connection to the demonstrations.
One of the residents at Habitat said the police were to blame as they failed to control the crowd.
“Police provoked the situation to an extent of firing teargas everywhere including in the residential areas. This is a sign that our police lack skills of controlling crowds in such situations,” the community member said.
Eastern region police spokesperson Joseph Sauka described as very unfortunate that some police officers took advantage of beating people instead of protecting them.
Sauka said some people including a police officer were injured.
However, Sauka confirmed that the fracas started when the drivers started blocking the main road in the so called peaceful demonstrations saying the drivers did not get any permission to conduct demonstrations.
“The police went there to protect people and their properties but instead of conducting peaceful demonstrations the drivers started rioting which prompted police to respond to protect people and properties,” said Sauka.