Fourteen students from The Malawi Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi (Unima), have been released on bail by the Blantyre Chief Resident Magistrate’s Court (CRM) after spending three days in police custody at Blantyre police station.
In the fully packed court, CRM Thomson Ligowe granted bail to the students on condition that each one of them should report to Blantyre Police station every Wednesday morning, they should not go out of Blantyre without informing the officer-in-charge at the station, police should visit and verify their places of residence in Blantyre and that they should not be found around the Polytechnic campus.
The nine boys and five girls were arrested on Friday at around six o’clock in the evening soon after their General Assembly where among other issues they were discussed measures to be taken in regard to the recent fees hike by Unima Council.
The students are accused of proposing violence at an assembly. They all pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Blantyre police station prosecutor Damiano Kaputa told the court that without a lawful excuse, the students made statements at the general assembly aimed at inciting others to attack police officers who were executing their duties within the campus.
Kaputa however, asked the court to give police seven days to finish with the investigations and identify witnesses to case.
Defense lawyer Wanangwa Hara of Ritz Attorneys, described the charges as baseless saying some were arrested while they were going out to buy food while some were going to their respective hostels after finishing their examinations.
CRM Ligowe has since set August 5 as a day for hearing of the case.
Speaking in an interview after being granted the court bail, Polytechnic Students Union president Frank Mchupuka Msiska expressed disappointment with the way the police handled the whole issue.
“Police are fond of to practicing the skills they got during training on university students. We were having a peaceful assembly, discussing issues that affect us but they started firing teargas on us. I wish the Inspector General should start sending some of his officers to war tone countries so that they practice their skills since they have no better way of utilizing those skills on a peaceful country like this one,” said Msiska.
Battson Pambalipe, a parent for one of the students claimed police brutalised them when they staged a vigil outside Blantyre Police station over the weekend and to the arrested students.
“Police insulted us at the station, calling us names, pointing guns at us and saying we are undisciplined and our children are taking after us. We were forced to make contributions and hire the lawyer after our children told us police poured buckets of water on them at 11pm on Friday night and 3am on Saturday morning This is despicable,” said Pambalipe.
According to Pambalipe, the parents have managed to contribute up to K205 000 for legal fees out of the K500 000 required.
“We are still getting in touch with some of the parents and guardians who are not yet here, we are hoping to square the balance soon,” he said.