Police and civilians engaged in running battles at Bvumbwe Trading Centre in Thyolo on Monday as community members allegedly sought to avenge the shooting of two of their colleagues by a police officer.
The chaotic scenes on Monday afternoon forced the closure of the Limbe-Thyolo-Mulanje-Muloza Road around Bvumbwe where angry people blocked the road with stones and burning tyres. The chaotic scenes lasted for about an hour before a reinforcement from Limbe Police Station moved in to quell the situation.
Motorists, including minibuses, had to use alternative routes to evade the chaos and avoid having their vehicles smashed by the angry people who went to the extent of stoning an ambulance coming from the Thyolo direction, according to eyewitnesses.
The eyewitnesses said on Monday’s events followed a brawl on Sunday night between two civilians and an unidentified police officer at a beer drinking joint. The police officer, who was allegedly beaten by the civilians, attempted to arrest one of them on Monday when hell broke loose.
Thomas Banda, a market vendor at Bvumbwe Trading Centre, said: “The civilian started to resist the arrest and that is when the chaos erupted. In the process, the police officer shot the victim on his right-hand side of the chest. We do not know whether it was accidental or intentional.”
He said that when the victim’s colleague tried to approach the police officer after noticing that his friend was shot, he also got shot in the process.
Banda’s version was corroborated by Jenifer Nkata, chairperson of Bvumbwe Market Committee, who said that after the second person got shot, people were infuriated even more.
“That triggered the chaos and if the police had not come in quickly, a lot of things could have been damaged. We are waiting for the police to give us a detailed report because we want to know what prompted the police officer to shoot the civilians,” she said.
But both Banda and Nkata could not identify the shot civilians by name.
In a telephone interview on Monday, Limbe Police Station spokesperson Patrick Mussa confirmed that two civilians were shot at Bvumbwe, but said as of on Monday, they were still investigating the matter to establish what triggered the situation.
He said: “We are still investigating the matter. Our police officers are on the ground and we are expected to release a full report on what happened after thorough investigations are finished.”
Mussa, who said that no arrest had been made in connection with the incident, said police took the two civilians to Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital (QECH) in Blantyre.
He also said he was yet to get the identities of the shot civilians.