Seven Malawians and a Mozambican national have been arrested for being found with goods suspected to have been looted during a cross-border commotion at Tsangano Turn-Off Trading Centre in Ntcheu on Sunday.
National Police spokesperson Nicholas Gondwa said in an interview yesterday the eight suspects were arrested in a joint operation by Malawian and Mozambican police officers whose target was to search and recover the looted goods soon after the cross-border commotion which lasted a few hours.
He said: “The police officers caught these people with suspected looted goods such as blankets, zitenje [cloth wrappers] and various grocery items. All eight suspects will soon appear in the Ntcheu Magistrate’s Court to answer a charge of being found in possession of property suspected to have been stolen.”
Police have identified the Malawian suspects, who include two minors aged 16 and 17, as Yosefe Chikopa (18), Alfred Zobero (22), Fideri Symon (25), Mustafa Master (adult, undisclosed aged) and Levison Kamkwamba (21). The Mozambican is Twibatwiba Saviele.
Ironically, both Malawian and Mozambican police officers investigating the fracas at the normally peaceful trading centre about seven kilometers from Ntcheu Boma, that is split by the Ntcheu-Dedza stretch of the M1 Road, have raised eyebrows upon discovering the apparently “small” matter that caused the disturbance.
It turned out to have been caused by a piece work-seeking 13-year-old Malawian boy who got his wish but later panicked when he saw a perimeter fence gate closing on him at the secured house of a Burundian businessperson on the Mozambican side.
Sources said the boy, fearing he would be killed for ritual purposes, scaled the fence and jumped ‘to safety’ before running back home to the Malawi side of the open border, demarcated by a busy tarmac road on a built-in business centre, where he tearfully showed relatives and sympathisers bruises sustained during his fence-jumping ‘ordeal.’
Initial reports said the Burundian had detained the Malawian for unspecified reasons and that, later, the Malawians mobilised themselves and went to the Mozambique side to rescue their national.
Gondwa said investigations by both Malawian and Mozambican police officers, who jointly moved in to quell the commotion, proved that the boy’s immature fear triggered the ugly scenes.
He said: “When interviewed, the boy could not state what made him fear for his life in the first place. He only said the fear became pronounced when he saw the security guard at the house starting to close the gate, meaning that he could not have an escape route.”
Gondwa said contrary to earlier reports, the group of Malawians that went to demolish part of the Burundian’s house and looted his shop and a few other shops in the area, allegedly went there for a vengeance mission, after embracing the tearful boy’s story.
Tsangano Turn-Off is a thriving area punctuated by shops on either side of the tarmac road that separates Malawi and Mozambique. People in the area generally move freely to each other’s territory and close business and intermarriages are common among citizens of the two countries in the community.
At the height of the tension on Sunday, there was a break in the busy flow of traffic on the road that connects Blantyre and Lilongwe cities.