The National Oil Company of Malawi (Nocma) has pleaded with Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) and its followers not to attack its huge strategic fuel depots and fuel trucks, to avoid life-threatening fire disasters.
Nocma officials made the plea on Tuesday when they summoned the HRDC officials to a meeting to sensitise the stakeholders in Lilongwe on how dangerous it is for people to tamper with the oil depots across the country and fuel tankers, mainly plying the Tanzania-Malawi route.
The plea comes in the wake of reports that during the recent nationwide demonstrations organised by the HRDC—in its ongoing efforts to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah to resign for allegedly presiding over fraudulent May 21 general elections—some protestors broke from the peaceful marchers and were planning to raid Nocma strategic fuel reserves located at Sonda in Mzuzu.
Reports say security personnel got wind of the plan and they foiled the move.
And Nocma organised the sensitisation meeting on Tueday ahead of HRDC’s plan to start three-day nationwide protests from today.
Nocma safety and security manager Sarai Chimombo reminded Malawians of a fatal incident that occurred in 2018 along Chiweta Hills in Rumphi District, where a fuel tanker exploded killing eight people and left many with serious burns as they tried to siphon oil out of an overturned tanker.
She also reminded Malawians about a recent explosion of a tanker in Tanzania, which killed more than 60 people as the victims were trying to recover fuel from the tanker which had overturned on a road in Morogoro region, some 200 kilometres west of Dar es Salaam.
“If one tanker can kill 60 people, what about a fuel depot where we are talking of the equivalence of 200 tankers?” said Chimombo.
Responding to the Nocma concerns, HRDC lawyer Khwima Mchizi hailed the fuel company for tabling the issue of HRDC demonstrations “with a sober mind”.
He assured Nocma that their protests are peaceful in nature and only rogue and criminal elements take advantage of the demonstrations. On his part, HRDC media relations coordinator Madalitso Mwenda assured Nocma that no protester would be allowed both near the strategic fuel reserves and the fuel tankers on the road.