As the country burned during protests for the resignation of Jane Ansah last week, at least 40 people suspected to have participated in a series of illegal acts in the mayhem have been arrested.
The protests against the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Ansah also left over 60 business property damaged while 36 police officers are nursing injuries with two accidental shootings recorded. The police also recovered three stolen riot guns.
A police confidential report, which Nation on Sunday has seen and confirmed by police, paints a vivid picture on the extent of the chaos that characterised the Tuesday march in some parts of the country, especially Lilongwe and Mzuzu.
The police report estimates that 47 shops, offices and banks in Lilongwe were broken into and had property stolen while others were simply damaged.
According to the police, more than 15 vehicles were destroyed beyond repair belonging to both government and private citizens in Mzuzu and Lilongwe while 36 officers got injured in the line of duty. Of the 36, 20 are from Lilongwe and the others from Mzuzu.
The police internal communication says there were two accidental shooting affecting a civilian and a police officer who are both in a ‘fair’ condition.
“Mr. Evance Namuonjeza, 28, Ndaona Village, T/A Sabwe, Thyolo has been accidentally shot on the lower leg and currently admitted to Kamuzu Central Hospital. His condition is fair.
“Sergeant Miles Milanzi of Kawale Police Post has been accidentally shot [near private parts] with a tear gas canister by one of the police officers who has not yet been identified,” reads in part the report from the Central Region Criminal Investigation Office to Commissioner of Police Central Region.
have accidentally fired at each other. During the last protest, an officer fired a tear gas canister which ended up injuring fellow officers in a police vehicle.
Asked if this did not point to capacity challenges, national police spokesperson James Kadadzera came to the defence of men and women in uniform, saying such incidences were normal though not common.
“In the line of duty such incidence happen. It is not every time but once in a while there is an error in terms of judgment. I would not say it is capacity challenges. Officers are well trained but mistakes do happen because we are human,” he said.
Of the 36 injured officers according to Kadadzera, 16 are from the North with 11 from Mzuzu while Rumphi and Karonga had two each whereas one came from the D Division.
The other 20 are from Lilongwe, including a female officer who was stripped naked in public, something that has attracted widespread condemnation.
In Lilongwe, four police officers had their property looted or damaged, including police public relations officer for the Central Region Kingsley Dandaula.
“[House of] Superintendent P.K. Phiri of C-Division, occupying house No. 147A, was burnt to ashes and value of damaged property not advised. Traffic Inspector Elufy Mijoya of Lilongwe Police Station had her motor vehicle registration BS104, Toyota Hamza, burnt to ashes.
“Superintendent Alfred Bwanali of C-Division had his house broken into and the following items stolen; amplifier, GoTv decorder, hotplate, Lenovo laptop, entertainment unit and a DVD. Total value not yet established,” further reads the police report.
The police, which has so far recovered three riot guns (gas launchers) in Lilongwe, could not say how many were stolen, saying the assessment of the damage and investigations are underway.
Meanwhile, there is a general sense of fear among the business community and some police officer due to what they call ‘targeted’ attacks which have taken advantage of the on – going anti-Jane Ansah protests organised by the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC).
While HRDC has insisted that these violent scenes were outside the march route, most of the incidences happened within the prescribed route with vandalism along the Paul Kagame Road in Lilongwe as a case in point.
Some shops and companies along Chilambula Road were not spared from massive looting.
Movesa and CFAO were the most affected on the route as protesters went away with assorted items, and burned to ashes some items such as office chairs, computer pieces and other products.
Movesa operations manager Anis Ishmail lamented in an interview on Saturday that the demonstrations adversely impacted on the business as they no longer have capacity to operate the shop. However, he said they were yet to come up with the cost of the looted property.
At car dealers CFAO, protesters broke windows and doors using stones and bricks. They went away with assorted items which included computers, chairs and fans. The officials said they were not ready to comment on the matter until they finish assessing damages.
Further down the protest route, carnage affected companies such as Airtel, Old Mutual, First Capital Bank while many motorists had their windscreens smashed.
Simso Oil finance manager for Simama General Dealers Abraham Simama Junior said on Saturday two of their filling stations at Bwaila and at Biwi were attacked around lunch hour on Saturday.
This is the second time the Simama businesses have been hit by post-election violence in over a month. The company’s shop at Nsundwe, on the outskirts of Lilongwe City, was looted and property estimated at K22 million was stolen by criminals who struck soon after a peaceful protest had been staged in the area.
A police officer told Nation on Sunday that the law officers are living in fear due to targeted attacks.
“In 2011 during demonstrations, I lost property and I had to move to another location and transferred to a different police unit but here I am targeted again. We are not safe with these protests,” said an officer.
A Nation on Sunday snap check in the capital Lilongwe also reveals a sense of despair among many people operating businesses, especially foreigners who seem to have been targeted.
Kadadzera reiterated Inspector General Rodney Jose’s statement that demonstrations should not continue due to security concerns. He said it is unfortunate that the state of anarchy is becoming the order of the day, which if not tamed, would affect the country’s development.