The nationwide strike by Malawi Prisons Service (MPS) junior officers turned ugly yesterday after they clashed with armed riot police before successfully chasing them away in all the formations.
Police officers invaded all prison formations yesterday morning following an order to supposedly intimidate the warders to resume work or else take over the correctional mandates.
However, the situation got nasty when the police officers started shooting in the air and firing tear gas to disperse the warders who entered a second day of their industrial action.
The cops, who used anti-riot vehicles, land cruisers and other vehicles, also removed entrance barricades set by the warders. The two State organs are both under the Ministry of Homeland Security, whose Minister is Nicholas Dausi.
At Blantyre Prison, popularly known as Chichiri, the armed men in uniform were seen fleeing towards their camp at Kanjedza before the protesting warders reinstated the entrance barrier and burnt used tyres and other stuff.
At Mzuzu Prison, after being defeated, the police officers started firing tear gas at onlookers who had gathered outside the prison. The spectators also pelted police vehicles with stones as they left the scene.
In an interview after the fracas, Regional Prisons public relations officer (North) Austin Mwasangwale said the police did not explain why they invaded the prison.
“They just drove in and fired tear gas and some rubber bullets; our men also retaliated and fired back,” he said.
At Zomba Central Prison, a warder who did not want to be named, said armed police officers invaded the correctional facility as such they had no choice but to break into the armoury to collect guns and retaliate.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera said they went to all prison formations in the country to engage warders to reconsider their stand and think of other channels of presenting their grievances.
Security expert Brigadier Marcel Chirwa said the police action was “very weird” because it threatens national security.
Meanwhile, a circular from Chief Commissioner of Prisons issued yesterday and signed by Commissioner of Prisons Clement Kainja indicates that government has promoted all warders to sergeants, all sergeants to gaolers and all goalers to inspectors.
The promotions are with immediate effect, according to the memo with reference number STF/9/vol.1/130. n
—Additional reporting by Martha Chirambo and Holyce Kholowa.