Police in Chileka, Blantyre yesterday arrested nine people, including two pupils, for blocking the road to Chileka International Airport in protest against delayed payment of teachers’ leave grants.
In an interview, Chileka Police Station spokesperson Grace Mwale said the nine will be charged with malicious damage to vehicles.
She said: “What is happening is that some people are taking advantage of the pupils’ riots. They [community members] are the ones who are stoning cars. As police, we used tear gas, but no one has been injured as a result.”
The developments followed a protest by pupils from Kachanga Primary School in Chileka who protested against government’s delayed payment of teachers’ leave grants and resolution of other outstanding issues.
For two weeks now, teachers in public primary and secondary schools are boycotting classes as called for by the Teachers Union of Malawi (TUM).
Witnesses said the pupils thronged the Chileka Road between the junction to their school and Ten Miles local market, a small trading centre lying along the road, almost 500 metres from the airport.
However, police swiftly moved to quell the situation with reinforcements from Blantyre Police Station.
Said the witness: “The pupils stoned vehicle and blocked the road. They were targeting cars going to the airport.”
Another witness said some police officers fired tear gas at the pupils on the road while some officers beat up the pupils.
When The Nation got to the scene the situation had calmed and vehicles going to the airport were moving freely.
One security officer at the airport said the situation was normal.
A visit to the school established deserted premises.
Some teachers found at the school said police invaded the campus and fired tear gas to disperse the pupils.
But Mwale denied allegations that police invaded Kachanga Primary School and fired tear gas there. Instead, he said the community members, not necessarily pupils, assembled at the school.
This week has seen protests by pupils in Blantyre City, Lunzu, Balaka and Ntcheu.