An apparent business deal that went sour brought tension for a few hours yesterday morning between some Malawian and Mozambican business people at Tsangano Turn-off, about seven kilometres from Ntcheu Boma on the Ntcheu-Lilongwe stretch of the M1 Road.
Witnesses said commotion began around mid-morning when a group of Malawians, mainly comprising vendors in the area, reportedly reacted to the apparent detention of a colleague who had crossed to the nearby Mozambique side to visit a Burundian shop owner there.
Rumour later circulated that the Malawian had been detained by his Burundian host for unknown reasons. The witnesses said it was at this point that the group of Malawians crossed to the Mozambican side, apparently to rescue their colleague.
National Police spokesperson Nicholas Gondwa, monitoring the situation from Lilongwe, yesterday told The Nation that the tension escalated when the Malawians allegedly went ahead to demolish a house and looted not only the Burundian’s shop but also targetted several other shops in the area and later returned to the Malawian side with the loot.
He said: “The police on both sides of the border moved in to quell the commotion, which initially brought tension even among the law enforcers. But when the cause and impact of the commotion got traced, the law enforcers on both sides of the border collaborated and are now working together in tracking down those who broke the law, including those who looted other people’s property.”
Gondwa said investigations were underway and a clearer picture would emerge by night fall yesterday.
He, however, indicated that the Malawians who caused trouble and looted were likely to be arrested.
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 across the open border freely and close business and inter-marriage are common among the citizens of the two countries in the community.
At the height of the tension, however, there was a break in the busy flow of traffic on the Blantyre-Lilongwe main road. The power of the social media was evident when some road users and other observers shared developments through running commentaries to others who were hundreds of kilometres away, but cared to know what was happening.