Impatient Malawians, who recently returned from South Africa and are quarantined at Mapanga Prisons Training College in Blantyre awaiting Covid-19 results, went on the rampage yesterday, destroying personal and public property in their vicinity.
Police earlier moved in and fired tear gas to restore order after some of the returnees, who arrived at the site on Saturday evening, pelted stones at passing vehicles along the Blantyre-Zomba Road a stone’s throw away from the wire fence of their holding premises.
The returnees also ran riot and torched some structures at the training school which during the one-party administration was used as a Malawi Young Pioneers training base.
The returnees, who arrived in the country through Mwanza Border Post, at one point blocked the Limbe-Zomba Road and smashed vehicles in their desperate attempt to force authorities to succumb to their demands.
Scores of armed and civilian police officers rushed to the scene to quell the situation after firing tear gas at the angry returnees. The commotion lasted for more than an hour and at some point it was interrupted by heavy rains.
During the fracas, some of the returnees are feared to have escaped from the quarantine, according to sources.
But when contacted last evening, both Southern Region Police Headquarters spokesperson Ramsey Mushani and Limbe Police Station spokesperson Patrick Mussa said they had no information.
“I am not around; hence, I have no information,” said Mushani.
Mussa, on the other hand, said: “I have not been in office today so I am also still waiting to get the information from the people who were on the ground.”
But Immigration spokesperson for Mwanza Border Post Pasqually Zulu said the returnees were demanding that authorities give them back their passports.
He said the returnees will only get their passports upon getting their results from health officials who conducted Covid 19 tests on them.
Zulu said the results were expected to be ready from last evening.
He said: “We are not releasing any passport until all the processes are concluded and these people get their results from health officials. We do not want to comprise anything.”
The over 500 Malawians returned from South Africa on Saturday and went straight to the institutional quarantine designated by the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19.
Government has been blamed for treating the returnees ‘softly’ with some social commentators arguing that the pandemic was being imported into the country by the returnees.
In May 2020, 441 people temporarily held at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre upon arrival from South Africa awaiting their coronavirus test results escaped without knowing their status.
Malawi reported its first three cases of Covid-19 on April 2 2020.
The previous administration planned a 21-day national lockdown from midnight April 18 to midnight May 9 as a precautionary measure to curb the spread of Covid-19. However, the lockdown was foiled by a court order obtained by concerned citizens and some civil society groups.
To date, 220 people have died of Covid-19, including 12—the highest number recorded in a single day in the country—on Saturday. The country has 2 070 active cases and 8 300 confirmed cases since the first case was reported on April 2 last year.