Malawi defense force came to the rescue of police officers who were overcome by angry vendors who clashed with the police in a clean up campaign in the Capital Lilongwe.
It all started in the morning of Thursday 5th of January when Lilongwe City Assembly ordered its officials to clean up the streets and moving vendors from operating in the street demanding them to relocate to designated flea markets.
The move angered vendors who ended up looting shops mostly those belonging to the Chinese.
The development forced heavily armed police to throw teargas to disperse the crowd that was in hundreds, injuring several people but the fear of death did not move the vendors.
According to Malawi online News Paper Nyasa Times Vendors are said to have also injured a Police woman who was hit by a stone.
Central Region Police spokesperson Kingsley Dandaula said “Police are patrolling the streets to protect citizens”.
The defiance shown by vendors has seen the deployment of the Malawi Defence Force soldiers in the streets of the capital.
“Lilongwe old town resembles a war zone. Running battles between police and vendors. Shops being looted. Cars being smashed. Cry my beloved country,” one of the country’s top –notch lawyer Ralph Kasambara posted on Facebook advising people to avoid the area.
Public Relations Officer for Lilongwe City Assembly, Tamara Chafunya, said the relocation of vendors from streets to flea markets was long overdue and that the authorities were “following the city by-laws” to move the traders out of the streets.
A random interview with some of the vendors showed that they are not willing to move from the streets, arguing that President Bingu wa Mutharika gave them an OK to trade anywhere.
Soon after the 20th July 2011 anti-government demonstrations, President Mutharika said when he hosted a party for the traders that they were free to operate along the streets.
Malawi’s City Assemblies have for the past years been snatching commodities from vendors who sell goods by lingering around town.
Meanwhile, police said they arrested 18 people following the clashes and would be charged with illegal selling, while two others would be charged for conduct likely to cause breach of peace “soon after investigations are over.