Countrymen, zina kambu, zina leku!

By Rafik Hajat

Yesterday I began to accept that indeed our police's attitude to citizens has completely changed.  I really think that we are heading the wrong direction if things continue to go like this.

At about 7.00 p.m. me, my wife and three daughters decided to visit Kips just to express our solidarity with rescue efforts that were going on. On arrival we discovered that many well meaning Asian and Malawian families had thronged the place too. These were harmless and unarmed families (among them very young children and very old grannies) who were there just to join other countrymen in this mourniful event. The huge crowd, which could have caused mayhem, had already dispersed into the thick darkness.

What surprised me though is that all of a sudden, two policemen who were standing close to me started suggesting to each other that because it was getting late everybody should be forced to vacate the place. There reason they had was that people were coming from far away and they could not continue to be at the place. Most of these people had come to the place by car and by the expression on their faces, their main interest was to witness this sorrowful event  not to disturb anyone. But to my shock and surprise what looked like a mere discussion between two uniformed men soon turned out to be a chaotic scene when the whole police battalion at the place caught the "bug". They became so violent so that my family and I decided to run for our dear lives.

Some Malawians at the scene started to argue that the majority of the people present had come to the place by car and there was no need for them to be sent back "just because it is dark." In response to this the uniformed guys started brandishing their guns and teargassing us. Two of my daughters almost choked with the gas as we were running towards the car packed near the Malawi Institute of Tourism College. It was a pity to see innocent families, particularly children and older people scampering to safety choking under teargas.

The question, that is bothering me is: where is our country heading to? What wrong did we citizens commit that some trigger-happy boys should just teargas us and threaten us with guns? Honestly, our police must accept that the direction it is taking is no longer in the public interest.  Who will protect us if the police is the first one to cause instability at every event?  Do they really need to use force at each and every public event including at Kips?

The police PRO Chingwalu angered me further when I heard him defend his boys' brutal action in a ZBS interview when he told the equally surprised (and angry) Gospel Kazako. He lied that "these thieves" were waiting to pounce on cash from the shop? Really? What I know is that the crowd was peaceful but too police boys just wanted to display the police power! What I learnt was that two cash boxes had been exhumed hours before this event.

And how could people steal at a place heavily condoned by such a large and police officers armed to the teeth and backed by the army?

Some of us grew up to our late twenties before we ever saw a real gun (except yophera nyama kutchire) but now, particularly under this government, it seems that police are just too eager to let the citizens know that they can use their guns! I have always been careful to avoid situations that would expose me or my family to police brutality. And honestly, I never expected that Kips (where families were just going to express their solidarity with those searching for souls trapped under the rubble) could ever be used by the police as an arena to let citizen know that they have guns! And to my further disappointment these policemen were not even helping in the search (at least the time I was there). Instead of helping with the search they found it wise to terrorise innocent Malawians!

Countrymen I am one of such Malawians who avoid commenting on this kind of things but I think that the more we remain silent on these matters the more we are jeopardizing ourselves and our children.  Will this madness come to an end some day? 

Where are we going? Was there any reason to terrorise people at Kips! Where shall we be safe on planet earth if Malawi (and Kips) in not the place? Why guns? Teargas, why?  I hope someone in government is reading this and will communicate my disgust to those we put in authority. For sure,

I will not trust the police any more.

"Oh, God bless our land of Malawi, keep it a land of peace ..."
Sincerely yours,