The looming Constitutional Court (ConCourt) judgement in Lilongwe at 9am today has sent shivers to many Malawians in the last few days.
Spot-checks by The Nation yesterday established tight security in major cities by Malawi Defence Force (MDF) and Malawi Police Service (MPS) officers. Many people were also seen engaged in panic buying of essential commodities yesterday.
Meanwhile, Chancellor College-based political scientist Earnest Thindwa said the panic buying signalled that parties involved in the presidential election case have not done enough in preparing people for the judgement.
He said: “This is not surprising, even in Blantyre people were shopping for food items. This only means that people lack faith in the security agencies such as the police. It also reflects on how the period from May 21 2019 has been managed. It means not much has been done in preparing them…”
Thousands of people flooded major shops, especially in Lilongwe, to buy foodstuffs and other commodities for fear of the unknown as the court will be passing judgement today.
When The Nation visited a number of shops, including Chipiku, Game, Shoprite and Sana in Lilongwe to appreciate the situation, it discovered carparks for the complexes were fully packed and all shops were filled with hundreds of people carrying huge baskets filled with various commodities.
Pearson Msiska, a security officer at Sana complex, where buyers
parked their cars alongside old-town-City Centre road due to lack of space, acknowledged that the day was different.
He said: “The number of people who have come for shopping today is far much bigger compared to the past days. Many people are saying they want to buy things because they do not know the type of judgment which will come.”
Some of those we spoke to in an interview hinted that they wanted to stock their households with adequate foodstuffs and drinks because they were not sure what may come out of today’s judgement.
Joseph Binali, who we spoke with at Shoprite said: “We had problems accessing food with the demonstrations. I did not want to take the judgement day for granted because anything can happen.”
It is not only individuals who are uncertain on what today’s judgement will breed. But also shops in town as well as Area 23 are also reported to have items removed from them for fear of vandalism. A witness identified as Enock Mnyenyembe, who works with White Ribbon Alliance in Lilongwe, confirmed the report.
In Mzuzu, the flea markets and other shops selling consumables were also busy, in an apparent sign that people were readying themselves for the unknown.
Some of the people found buying consumables, like Jacqueline Mokowa said they were anticipating a risky day on Monday; hence, buying goods in advance on Sunday so that they are not inconvenienced on Monday.
She said: “Nobody really knows what will happen on Monday, its already tense here and we don’t expect shops to open.”
One of the sellers of kaunjika in Mzuzu, Noel Kangere said there would be no business today, as people are likely going to go berserk.
Banks and several shops were doing enforcement on security by covering their premises with plywood.
On the other hand, the Northern Region Water Board also opened its paying points on Sunday, in case circumstances do not allow for people to access the said points today.
Reads the statement: “Customers with prepaid meters are therefore advised to purchase enough units in case circumstances may not allow the NRWB to open its pay points on Monday 3 February 2020.”
However, there was tight security in most parts of Blantyre and several road blocks were mounted on strategic roads apart from police patrol vehicles which were visible both in the townships of Blantyre and Limbe, as well as within certain areas of Ndirande, Nkolokosa, Manje, Chilomoni, Nyambadwe, Chilobwe and Machinjiri.
At some road blocks, for instance along the Machinjiri road soon after the Total Filling Station and at Misesa, there were thorough security checks on vehicles passing by where motorists were either showing their national identification (ID) cards or their drivers licences.
People who spoke to The Nation indicated that they would not be reporting for work as they have been given a day off from work while vendors said they would go to the streets and markets but with caution.
In both Blantyre and Limbe, only a few shop owners were seen putting up additional metal bars on their shops, as a precautionary measure in case violence erupts. Meanwhile Police and MDF soldiers will fortify court premises from 6am to 6pm to pave the way for judgment. The public and party supporters will not be allowed in court.