“Those who will not go by this directive will be removed by force,” said an LCC advertisement in the local press.
The Nation newspaper journalist, Albert Shara, wrote: “As am writing I am running. PMF (police mobile force) officers are also abusing people in different kinds.”
“I have seen them beating a girl coming from school (Bwaila secondary). Three women were forced to sit down. A man as well and had to be hit on the back several times,” he wrote on the Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi chapter googlegroups about Malangalanga shopping area. The afternoon also saw the Chilambula road connecting the M1 road and Kamuzu Barracks blocked several places, where violence still rages on.
Shara also reported the town was silent, no minibuses, or vending, all shops closed and the streets are empty. Around 25 vendors have since been arrested and newly acquired police Rhino armoured vehicles been put in strategic areas, including at Pamajiga in ‘hostile’ Area 23.
“It is really terrifying. But the situation is better in Old Town (Shoprite area) some shops are open…”
Some vendors challenged the council’s call to move out, saying they will fight on. However, their leaders went live on state media including Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) television to say they supported the call and that they would help authorities with the operation.
“We will help move out those we know are not real vendors because they tent our image,” said one in an interview, making reference to the recent attacks on women wearing trousers and miniskirts. Thugs and some vendors in the three cities of Lilongwe, Mzuzu and Blantyre stripped them naked and forced the to buy wrappers at exorbitant prices.
A nationwide campaign by women agreed not to buy vendor wears.
Pedestrians have been caught in the melee and forced to run for their lives as police shot rubber bullets and used teargas. At many roads leading out of town and some in nearby townships have been blocked with smoke billowing out from burnt old tires.
Many people say Malawi is quickly becoming a police state and have called on government to find lasting solutions to the vendor issue and other wider problems.