Activist Joshua Chisa Mbele and 32 other protesters spent a night in a police cell following their arrest on Friday for allegedly inciting violence during demonstrations in Lilongwe.
The protests were organised by Citizen Action against Impunity and were aimed to force President Lazarus Chakwera and his administration to act on poor governance, worsening trends of corruption and prevailing economic hardships. Similar protests were also held in Blantyre and Zomba on Thursday.
Police arrested Mbele, who was the lead organiser of the protests alongside Levi Luwembe and 31 other protesters, near Sunbird Lilongwe as the group headed to Kamuzu Palace defying an order to deliver their petition at Lilongwe District Commissioner’s office.
In a telephone interview on Friday, National Police spokesperson Peter Kalaya said other charges may be brought up as they were still investigating the matter.
He said: “We are still processing the suspects and other charges may be added. But as of now what is clear is that they face charges of inciting violence. More information will be contained in a statement which we will issue later on.”
The protests started peacefully in the morning from Lilongwe Community Centre ground through Mchesi Township to Chilambula Roundabout where the police mounted a barricade to stop the protesters from proceeding to Kamuzu Palace via Bwandilo and Inter-change to City Centre.
Addressing the highly-charged crowd, Mbele pleaded with the protesters to maintain peace and order and not destroy any properties on the way to the DCs office where he said he would ask the DC Lawford Palani to join the demos to State House.
Some protesters could be seen throwing stones at some shops as they passed through Paul Kagame Highway.
There was also heavy presence of armed police and Malawi Defence Force officers who were stationed at some business premises around town.
When the group arrived at the DCs office under heavy police and MDF escort, Mbele requested the DC to join them so as to receive the petition at the gates of Kamuzu Palace.
Despite calls by Palani to be handed the petition, the organisers refused leading to a clash between police and the protesters who wanted to march to Kamuzu Palace.