Friday was one of Blantyre’s darkest days as it was marked by riots and a flurry of road accidents.
The riots—caused by a strike staged by minibus drivers and conductors following the introduction of new traffic laws—led to police arresting 24 suspects.
Southern Region Police spokesperson Ramsey Mushani said in an interview yesterday the suspects, who were still in custody, face charges ranging from proposing violence, conduct likely to cause breach of peace, malicious damage and general theft.
Mushani said further investigations were underway and that the number of arrested people was likely to go up.
The city turned chaotic as minibus drivers and conductors went on rampage, burning tyres on the streets and blocking roads with huge rocks.
Running battles between police and the rioters took centre-stage, forcing most people to either report for work or business late or not report at all as minibuses were not operating. Three police units in the city’s Machinjiri Township were burnt in the process.
Before the riots ensued, Blantyre residents woke up to a sad morning following news of a bus accident at around 3:30am which claimed three lives near Zalewa Roadblock when a City Tours and Travel bus almost made it to its destination in Blantyre from Lilongwe.
The chaotic incidents took the better part of the day, and as if this was not enough, another road accident involving at least four vehicles happened on the Magalasi Road late in the afternoon.
Still late in the afternoon around 4:30pm, Nation on Sunday witnessed another accident also involving four vehicles on the Chipembere Highway around Chichiri. The accident caused a traffic jam as most motorists were trying to get out of town earlier to be safe from the riots that ensued earlier in the day.
In an interview yesterday, Mushani said the Chichiri accident was caused after one of the cars’ driver applied emergency brakes to avoid hitting a pedestrian who was crossing the road, and three other vehicles behind that car rammed into each other.
He said police regretted that three lives were lost in the Zalewa accident while one was seriously injured with a fractured arm, but described the Magalasi Road and Chipembere Highway accidents as minor because no serious injuries were reported.
Eyewitnesses said the Magalasi Road accident was a pile up that also involved a truck. The accident follows another one on Sunday almost at the same spot where four people died.