Arrest of maize traders anger Blantyre Council members

BLANTYRE: Officials at Blantyre District Council have requested the police to explain why they arrested business men and women who were selling maize at Chazunda market.

On Saturday, regional police in the south invaded the said market and arrested 13 women and men who were selling maize and also those who were buying the commodity.

There was no better explanation as to why the police made the arrest and so is the situation till today.

Speaking during a Full Council meeting on Monday, Member of Parliament (MP) for Blantyre South West where the market is located, Kennedy Kachingwe said it was disheartening to see innocent Malawians being arrested for selling their own agricultural produce for no apparent reasons.

He said 13 people who were arrested committed no crime and it was wrong for them to sleep in jail.

According to what I know, government banned export of maize and for that reason, security was tightened in border areas. The people who were arrested were selling maize to support their families and even those who were buying, were buying because they wanted food.

What I want to know is, why the police arrested these innocent Malawians who were buying and selling in very small quantities, Kachingwe queried.

The MP further accused the police for not alerting the community that sale of maize has been prohibited by government than arresting them without a warning.

Member for Blantyre Rural East, Susan Ndalama also accused police for not informing communities that selling of maize was no longer accepted.

What happened was wrong and the police who knows the laws of the land should be the ones to school Malawians, she said.

District Commissioner for Blantyre, Bennet Nkasala and Chair for the council, Tawanda Tambula concurred with the two MPs that what the police did was a total violation of people’s rights.

The two demanded a crystal explanation why the police arrested these business men and women.

If the police indeed arrested these people then they were wrong. If at all there was a ban, then they should have informed relevant stakeholders and together we should have sensitized people on the same.

What is important however is that Malawians should be vigilant and not allow foreigners to buy the crop and then export it to other countries, explained Nkasala.

Officer-in-Charge (OC) for Blantyre, Ellobiaum Banda said he was only told to keep people who were arrested in custody and that he had no idea about what the operation was all about.

Just like any other agent of government, we were told to keep in custody those people. But everything was done at the regional level, he said.

Ramsey Mushani, Public Relation Officer for the south expressed ignorance of the matter.

I have no knowledge of what you have said but let me find out, he said in brief.

District Agriculture Development Officer (DADO) Linda Mphande also refused to have received instruction from the ministry that sale of maize has been banned.

Honesty I have no idea about this ban what I can therefore say is that let me find out from the ministry, Mphande said.

According to Kachingwe when he tried to plead with the police to release the arrested people on bail, they refused saying police would only grant bail after they have appeared in court and charged.

But after a lengthy talk, the MP said police released them and they have since been charged with selling of maize without license.

Chadzunda Market is found few kilometers after Mpemba along Chikwawa-Nsanje Road.

Source: Malawi News Agency MANA