There was drama yesterday at Mulanje Magistrate’s Court where some communities demanded that the court releases nine suspects who were arrested on Friday for blocking Blantyre Water Board (BWB) Likhubula Water Supply System project officers from doing their work.
BWB is working on a project that seeks to tap water from Mulanje Mountain to Blantyre City and surrounding areas.
The suspects, operating under Citizens for Protection of Mulanje Mountain and led by David Majeweta, have been resisting the BWB project since August last year and continue to block the implementation of the project despite a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between BWB and Mulanje residents to facilitate the project.
Friday’s development prompted police to arrest the nine, who appeared before court yesterday, for inciting violence and riot.
When Mulanje first grade magistrate Start Maruwasa denied them bail, some community members demanded the suspects’ release.
In an interview, Mulanje Police Station spokesperson Gresham Ngwira confirmed the chaos which erupted between community members and police.
“The community members started rioting following the court’s decision to deny the nine suspects bail. They were arrested last week for trying to block BWB from undertaking the water project,” he said.
Ngwira said group leaders Ivory Kaliati and one Majewere were charged with inciting violence contrary to Section 87 of the Penal Code while the other seven were charged with rioting.
According to Ngwira, police have since arrested 15 people, including five women for causing disorder at court and police premises yesterday.
An eyewitness, Francis Mulepa, said: “A group of people stormed the court and started demanding their [suspects] release. Then they started rioting around the court premises which forced police to disperse the rioters with teargas.”
The case for the nine has been adjourned to February 19.
Last month, BWB embarked on the K18 billion Likhubula Water Supply Project which seeks to tap water from Mulanje Mountain which will ease water shortages in Blantyre and surrounding districts.