Blackout woes in the country have attracted probably the first rioting, as 46 students from the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar) in Lilongwe were arrested for unruly behaviour on Thursday and part of Friday,
Luanar vice-chancellor Professor George Kanyama Phiri confirmed on Friday that some of the students arrested on Thursday spent the night in police cells and more were arrested on Friday for violent conduct in their protest against a three-day spell without electricity.
“It later turned out that the three-day blackout was not even the (shorter) loadshedding the students had been experiencing, like most people in the country.
“The problem was that a generator in our vicinity had developed a fault and engineers were not dispatched to repair it. That angered the students, who said the situation disrupted their studies and normal life at the college,” he explained.
Kanyama Phiri added that the students then wrote a petition to Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi (Escom) to fix the generator problem urgently.
A small group of the students delivered the petition to Escom on Friday.
“But some students then (on Thursday) started chanting and looking agitated and were blocking roads. Management then summoned the police, to prevent the students from breaking any property or harming people,” the vice-chancellor stated, adding that for sometime, teargas lobbing police officers had running battles with the students, some of whom they arrested.
But Kanyama Phiri said on Friday, he personally went to Lilongwe Police Station to put present a Luanar management decision, asking that the students be released, particularly because no significant damage had been caused by them.
“We have resolved the issue and, ironically, the Escom engineers came and have repaired the generator. Escom has promised not to interrupt power to Luanar for some time,” he said.
Lilongwe Police Station publicist Kingsley Dandaula said the students held at the station, had been cautioned and face the charge of conduct likely to cause a breach of peace.
“I don’t know if the students were released on bail by this (on Friday) evening. But what I can confirm is that investigations are still on-going regarding this matter,” he added. n