Malawi Police are battling minibus operators and touts in Blantyre and Zomba who are staging violent protests as they have resolved to maintain the current capacity of passengers until government reduces fuel prices for them to remain in business.
In Chirimba, Blantyre and Chinamwali in Zomba, police are using teargas to disperse the angry minibus operators who are demanding the reduction of fuel prices.
Police have had to use teargas to disperse people in Chirimba (Malandilova stage) after they blocked the road and stopped other cars from carrying passengers that are crowded in depots.
The minibus operators are demanding government to reduce fuel prices because the seating capacity was reduced to 60% as part of Covid19 preventive measures.
Minibus Owners Association of Malawi (Moam) acting spokesperson Peter Mvalo said they will not support the capacity reduction measure unless government meets their demands, which include fuel price reduction.
“For us to continue operating and make some profit amid the restrictions, government should reduce fuel prices. We were able to adhere to the restrictions last year because fuel was cheaper than now,” said Mvalo, who is also Moam chairperson for the Southern Region.
So far, passengers of public commuters are left stranded in most areas as the minibus operators are threatening others who intend to go back to the roads.
In Zomba, there are running battles at Chinamwali township between the police, minibus and taxi drivers who had earlier blocked the M3 road in protest over reduced carrying capacity of vehicles enforced by government.
The drivers are against the reduced carrying capacity, coupled with high fuel prices, which they say has affected their business.
The protests started at around 6 o’clock in the morning, with workers and businesspersons forced to walk to their respective work and business places.
Over 100 police officers are on the ground, some of them firing teargas to disperse the demonstrators.
In Bangwe, Blantyre, minibus drivers and call boys have mounted their own road block, where they are attacking motorbike kabaza operators.
The demonstrators are chanting songs, with the underlying message being “zisinthe” (demand for change).
Meanwhile, police are patrolling the Mugabe Highway in a bid to contain the situation.
The country has been experiencing a rise in Covid-19 cases.
The public health guidelines, among others, restrict passenger capacity for minibuses and buses by half and also limit public gatherings to 50.