Tension and security concerns forced organisers to cancel the protest march in Blantyre despite the High Court earlier allowing Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) to do so.
The court order followed a refusal by Blantyre City Council (BCC), for the second time in two weeks, to allow HRDC parade in the city and present a petition demanding the resignation of Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) chairperson Jane Ansah.
While the protesters gathered at Kamuzu Stadium upper ground awaiting the decision of the court, a group of about 25 youths clad in governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) branded T-shirts and berets, including known cadets such as Mnthandizi Ward councillor in Blantyre Bangwe Constituency, Isaac Jomo Osman, pounced on them in full view of police officers.
Thereafter, tension ensued as the group crossed over to the nearby Chichiri Shopping Centre where they assaulted people clad in red colours. It took the intervention of Malawi Defence Force (MDF) soldiers attending Independence Day parade drills at the stadium to restore order.
In his address to the protesters, HRDC Southern Region chairperson Masauko Thawe, who had his vehicle smashed, cited security concerns as the reason for the postponement of the march to today.
Victims of the terror at the shopping mall included Chitawira resident Maness Nyirongo who sustained bruises in the face.
National Police spokesperson James Kadadzera, in a telephone interview, said the law enforcers were investigating the incidents.
The suspected DPP cadets also attacked Malawi Congress Party (MCP) Southern Region offices at Chichiri. The offices were vandalised, glasses were broken and a security guard identified as Lungu was assaulted.
On why DPP youths were getting involved when the protests were against Ansah, a MEC official, DPP spokesperson Nicholas Dausi said he could not comment as he was in Parliament.
In a separate interview, MCP secretary general Eisenhower Mkaka described the vandalism of MCP offices as disheartening and deplorable.