Blantyre – Malawi police arrested 13 university students on Thursday after they smashed vehicles and fought with riot police in a protest against the delay and slashing of book allowances.
“The students caused havoc and were demonstrating violently. They blocked roads and stoned vehicles and offices,” police spokesperson Davie Chingwalu told AFP.
He said about 250 students from the Polytechnic, used “boulders, rocks and tree branches to block the main highway” which links the commercial capital Blantyre and its satellite city Limbe.
Chingwalu said the students were demonstrating because university authorities had delayed and cut back a book allowance of $200 to $133 which allowed them to buy learning material and stationery.
The students were to be charged with “conduct likely to cause breach of peace, theft and malicious damage”.
A student union leader, Evance Morrah, blamed police for the violence, saying they used “strong-arm tactics” in dealing with the situation.
He said the students had agreed to hold peaceful demonstrations but when police arrived and threw teargas, “the students acted in self-defence and in return started throwing stones at police and hence the battles”.
The students taken to the district police station were to appear in court on Friday to answer the charges.