Demonstrations to force Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah to resign continued on Friday in Mzuzu, where people went berserk, torching a police unit and destroying property belonging to senior Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) gurus.
They burnt Chibavi Police, and even set free suspects from police cells, ransacked Aunt Tina Lodge belonging to DPP deputy director of operations Big Joe Nyirongo. The protesters also damaged a vehicle, looted property and stoned the house of former Cabinet minister Grace Chiumia.
on Friday ’s mayhem followed Thursday’s looting and burning of some public offices in Mzuzu and Karonga. Those affected included Treasury Cashier’s office and Department of Parks and Wildlife which they also set ablaze.
The demonstrators regrouped from around 9am and marched through the M1 from Katoto to Mzuzu University, where they were joined by students and many others.
For three hours, guided by Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers, the protesters marched back to Mzuzu central business district (CBD), burning tyres and mounting roadblocks along the way.
Unlike on Thursday, MDF soldiers on Friday came on the streets as early as 6 am, and managed to control the situation until around 2 pm when protesters were about to approach the Court House Round About, which is close to Mzuzu and Northern Region Police Headquarters.
As the protestors approached the Court House Roundabout, police fired tear gas canisters at them. Things turned ugly when one tear gas canister landed on the face of a protester, leaving him seriously injured and drenched with blood. He was taken to the hospital on a motorbike as there were no vehicles around.
The protesters went berserk again pelting Escom House with stones and bursting water pipes.
Thereafter, they went into residential locations, starting with Chibanja, where DPP’s Nyirongo resides.
The protesters, mostly young men, raided his Aunt Tina Lodge, destroying property, while Nyirongo himself and other people at the site fled for their lives.
In an interview, he said the situation was terrifying, estimating that K40 million worth of property was destroyed.
Said Nyirongo: “They came in force, raided my shop, salon and bar, and took everything from the buildings. It was bad.”
Some protesters went to Chibavi Police Unit, where they set free suspects in cells, and set ablaze the facility.
When MDF soldiers arrived at the scene, protesters had left and were heading to Mchengautuwa where they targeted a few other premises.
They first invaded former Cabinet minister Grace Chiumia’s house, torching two vehicles and went away with DPP branded bicycles. They also burned most of the household items.
Still in Mchengautuwa, they also smashed vehicles of DPP constituency governor for Mzuzu, Dennis Moyo and raided a shop of the party’s director of youth (North) Kelvin Chirambo.
DPP governor (North), Kenneth Sanga expressed disappointment with the violent conduct.
“We in DPP have done nothing wrong; people went to the polls, and a winner was declared. These issues are in court, so why are people too impatient to wait for the outcome?
The ugly scenes in Mzuzu on Friday, add to those on Thursday in the city, as well as to those in Karonga and Rumphi.
In Karonga, protesters also ransacked public offices, including Northern Region Water Board, district council, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, Forestry and a service station shop.
In Rumphi, they stoned the district commissioner’s house, and a vehicle belonging to the DC’s office. Nkhata Bay, one of the districts where demonstrations took place on Thursday, was quiet on Friday .
Northern Region Police spokesperson Peter Kalaya said they were still monitoring the situation.
The Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC), chairperson for the North Happy Mhango on Thursday, distanced his group from the violent conduct, stating that people who became violent during the protests need to be taken to book.
Mhango also disowned an audio clip which was circulating on social media, calling people to be violent, saying, violence has no place in HRDC.
He said: “We organised protests that were peaceful, but some misguided people took advantage of this after the police fired teargas. For the Friday protests, we are not part of it, people took to the streets on their own and whatever happened there, we are not party to it.
The Public Affairs Committee (PAC) spokesperson Father Peter Mulomole has condemned the violent protests, calling for calm and patience among Malawians as they wait for the outcome of the court case on the disputed elections.