Violence in Zomba

Students of University of Malawi’s Chancellor College in Zomba on Friday brought business to a standstill in the city as they violently marched to the District

The students marched to the DC’s office to present a petition protesting against delayed students’ loans and reduced book and stationery allowances from K30 000 (about $197) to K20 000 (about $131).

They pulled down some signposts, threw away dust bins and threatened to break into shops, but police controlled them.

They sang anti-government songs and at the DC’s office, they burnt papers as the tolerant police officers watched and eased the tension.

The nearby Metro Shop was nearly broken into but the alert police quickly moved in and stopped the advancing students.

Police escorted the students back to the campus as they chanted songs like “shoot to kill”.

One unidentified student was arrested on the way back for violence and malicious damage.

President of Students Union of Chancellor College Lonjezo Sithole addressed the students before he handed the petition to the DC Daniel Phiri, who assured them it would be delivered to the Ministry of Education.

The confrontational and provocative students were under police’s tight security and were being constantly warned to demonstrate peacefully. They were led to the campus under police escort. At the end of the march, the police used teargas to force the students into the campus.

Almost all shops along the Zomba main road remained closed as students marched while singing pro-Vice-President Joyce Banda’s songs.

Anti-riot police were planted almost in all shops and fuel service centres. The road was littered with stones and tree branches.

The march and violence in Zomba come a day after students from the Polytechnic in Malawi’s commercial city, Blantyre, another constituent college of the University of Malawi, also staged a violent protest also against delayed allowances. Thirteen students were arrested for malicious damage.

Meanwhile, Chancellor College Academic Staff Union (CCASU) general secretary Franz Amin said on Friday the lecturers were advised not to march because of the students’ action.

Amin said their march to the University office is scheduled for Monday.

They, however, marched within the campus on Friday.

The lecturers’ action followed the summoning on Saturday of political science lecturer Dr Blessings Chinsinga by Inspector General (IG) of Police Peter Mukhito at Eastern Region Police Headquarters where he was reportedly interrogated about the example of Egypt which he gave in class on causes of mass protests.

CCASU, in a letter dated February 15 and addressed to the principal Professor Chris Kamlongera, said they were afraid to teach until there are guarantees and safeguards that their academic freedom will not be infringed upon again by the police or any other authority.

The letter reads: “As a result, CCASU members and those who identify with this cause will not be able to teach from tomorrow (last Wednesday).

“We would like to underline that we do not yet have an industrial dispute against the university but we are afraid to teach and we trust that you will do what is in your power to satisfactorily address our fears so that we can return to class as soon as we can.”

Kamlongera, in a letter dated February 15, advised head of Political and Administrative Studies (PAS), where Chinsinga belongs, to identify someone to take over from Chinsinga’s classes if his request for sabbatical leave application is approved.

The principal said the Vice-Chancellor assured him that there was nothing warranting their worry, particularly regarding “special” people reporting them to other authorities concerning their teaching. There was a suspicion it was a student who reported Chinsinga to authorities.

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