At least 33 people have been arrested today as minibus drivers staged their strike protesting against police implementation of traffic laws.
The minibus drivers engaged in running battles with police who fired tear gas to disperse them. In return the angry drivers torched down three police units, Nathoka, Khama and Nkolokoti in Machinjiri.
Police were not available to comment on how much property has been damaged and the number of injuries as Limbe police station spokesperson Pedzisai Zembeneko referred the matter to Southern Region Police headquarters spokesperson Ramsey Mushane who also referred the matter to national police spokesperson James Kadadzera, however, Kadadzera did not pick up his phone.
But according to inside sources, the 33 have been arrested from townships where the protests took centre stage including Chilobwe, Zingwangwa and Machinjiri.
The minibus drivers also blocked their counterparts from carrying passengers leaving many residents walking to and from their respective offices and businesses.
Police using anti-riot vehicles fired tear gas trying to disperse the angry drivers who were joined by some residents in the protests.
One of the minibus drivers Richard Mambo from Manase Township in the city said they will continue with the strike until police rescind their decision.
“They are just arresting us on petty issues and charging us unrealistically. Imagine they say drivers should be imprisoned for two years for exceeding capacity. Why do they hate minibus drivers, why are they treating us like slaves?” he queried.
In Lilongwe and Mzuzu business was normal while some riots were reported in Zomba.
In an interview yesterday, Moam secretary general Coxley Kamange spoke against the protest and called on the police to arrest the striking drivers deeming the strike illegal.
He challenged the minibus drivers to follow proper channels to table their grievances.
“The strike will be illegal as they did not follow proper channels and their arguments are unsubstantiated. On the sitting capacity, this was implemented long time ago, we tried to challenge it in court but we lost the case which means they have no argument and no reason to protest,” he said.
On the complaint that most minibus drivers do not follow traffic rules and regulations, Kamange said they are aware of the problem and have been negotiating with government so that it introduces refresher causes for minibus drivers including defensive driving.
However, national police spokesperson James Kadadzera yesterday brushed aside allegations that police are only targeting minibus drivers saying they have intensified road safety rules to all motorists to reduce road accidents.
“There have been increased reports of road accidents in the country and as police we cannot let that to continue. What they should do is follow traffic laws and regulations such as not drinking and driving, ensure their vehicles are in proper conditions and avoid over speeding among others. They should not take this as witch hunting, it is for the good of the nation,” he said.