Chaos erupted in Limbe, Blantyre on Tuesday afternoon when street vendors staged protests against Blantyre City Council (BCC) efforts to relocate them to designated places.
The development led to closure of shops and blocking of the Masauko Chipembere Highway from Standard Bank to Illovo Roundabout, with the protesters setting tyres alight on some parts of the road.
Some vendors, we spoke to, alleged that they did not want to go to the flea market because there is poor hygiene and little space.
When Nation Online arrived in Limbe around 2:30pm the section between Hardware and Total Service Station was strewn with stones thrown all over from Standard Bank by the disgruntled vendors.
Ironically, BCC was working in collaboration with the vendors association in negotiating with the vendors to move to the flea market.
The ugly scenes went on for close to three hours with no police officers in sight to defuse tension that saw shops, including some windows of Standard Bank, being smashed.
During that time, only two ambulances were allowed to pass while all cars were forced to use alternative routes.
The vendors at some point fought with each other as they tried to overpower colleagues who were coming from the shops with a lot of goods, to the point where others were seen bleeding.
The situation, however, stabilised when the police arrived at the scene around 4:17pm.
In an interview, an adviser of the vendors, Timothy Matimati, condemned the protest and distanced vendors from the violent acts, claiming intruders took advantage of the situation.
Asked why police came late, Southern Region police spokesperson Ramsey Mushani said there was a breakdown in communication between the council and the police.
On his part, BCC public relations manager Anthony Kasunda said the vendors were creating all sorts of excuses to buy public sympathy.
“But what is it that Blantyre residents want? Do they want vendors in the streets? I don’t think so,” he said.