Lilongwe Vendors Association vice-chairperson Alex Chimwala and publicity secretary Boniface Chinkanda said minibus touts and ganyu workers take advantage of any crisis to steal.
Said Chimwala: “Vendors have identity cards and we coordinate where we do our business. The touts, street urchins and ganyu workers are the ones who harass our women. Now, it is affecting our livelihood. We will cooperate with the police to ensure that all women are protected in areas where vendors operate from.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Earlier on Wednesday, the Youth Association for Democracy (Yadema) said in a statement that its inquiry into the events revealed that it was not vendors who harassed the women.
In the statement, co-signed by chairperson Wapona Kita and director of gender justice Habiba Osman, Yadema says the vendorsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ representatives distanced themselves from the perpetrators.
“If there are vendors involved, then it is not because they are vendors, but because they belong to some other terrorist organised group with its own objectives and not vending,” reads the statement in part.
Yadema said members of the vendorsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ association, who witnessed the attacks,Ã‚Â claimed the harassment was happening in full view of police officers, but no one was arrested.
“We strongly call upon the Malawi Police Service through the Office of the Inspector General to, within the next 24 hours, offer a public apology to the nation, and in particular, to the women who have been subjected to the inhuman and degrading treatment at the hands of their disservice,” reads the statement.
During the fracas, the youth, widely identified as vendors, pounced on women in trousers or miniskirts, arguing they were not decently dressed. About six women were confirmed to have been attacked. Police moved in quickly to contain the situation.
In protest, women in Lilongwe on Wednesday boycotted visiting the Old Town area, a development that caused vendors to cry for the womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s return, blaming the Tuesday incidents on minibus touts and piecework seekers (aganyu).
Central Region Police spokesperson John Namalenga said by Wednesday they had arrested 15 suspects in connection with the attacks, with 11 being picked from a late night fracas in Area 13 and four from the Old Town area.
There were visible police patrols throughout Lilongwe on Wednesday, with most vendors trading in their designated places.
And in a late night news conference on Tuesday at her official Area 12 residence in Lilongwe, Vice-President Joyce Banda asked President Bingu wa Mutharika to take action by addressing the root cause of frequent riots. She argued the protests are a sign of frustration among people.
“I am very ashamed that we are called a God-fearing nation. But we are heading towards total chaos. We need, all of us, from the President, religious and civil society leaders and all women, to sit down and find the root cause of such frequent incidents of violence,” she said.
Civil society leaders, who included National Organisation of Nurses and Midwives executive director Dorothy Ngoma, Malawi Health Equity Network national coordinator Martha Kwataine, Nkhoma SynodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Church and Society Programme director Billy Mayaya and Lucky Mbewe of the Youth Empowerment and Civic Education, also asked women and all Malawians to stop buying from vendors until they apologise for the attacks.
Further attacks were reported in residential areas such as Kanengo, Area 25, Area 18 and Area 23 on Tuesday night. In all instances, police were called to intervene.