Police, Super League of Malawi (Sulom) and clubs are involved in a blame game over the ugly scenes that culminated in a loss of life during the Super League game between Mighty Wanderers and Silver Strikers at Balaka Stadium on Sunday.
The match was later abandoned.
Sulom blamed police for the skirmishes, saying they did not heed advice to be vigilant at the stands where the situation was volatile whereas Balaka Police publicist sub-inspector Joseph Sauka blames the two clubs for prioritising gate revenue at the expense of security.
“To begin with, when Mr. Josaya from Balaka District Council informed us that the stadium would host the match, he told us that Sulom and the teams had asked for 20 police officers.
“When we sat down to strategise, we observed the need for at least 45 police officers to ensure adequate security because we wanted to deploy most of them in the stands and we informed Mr. Josaya to take up the issue with Sulom and the clubs,” said Sauka.
“At a later stage, we reduced the figure to 30 [including 30 plain-clothed personnel] as a compromise, but still the clubs stood their ground. We also noted another security threat that supporters of the two teams sat next to each other.
“We took up the matter with both teams’ supporters committee officials and I remember one of them was Anthony Nyasulu and they told us that it was the supporters right to sit where they wanted because at the stadium, there are no designated areas for particular teams. A Silver official also said we would provoke the situation if we attempted to separate them,” said Sauka.
He described the incident as scary, saying: “The way missiles were flying was as if they were stoning dogs.
“And when the violence led to a stampede, it became dangerous because the gates were locked and the keys were kept by stewards. The situation was worsened by the fact that the exit was blocked. In a nutshell, I would say had they [Sulom and clubs] accepted our suggestion to deploy 45 police officers, the situation could not have got out of hand.”
Meanwhile, the Wanderers fan who died as a result of the skirmishes has been identified as Lemiyasi Josita, 31, a fish-monger from Bwanje, Ntcheu.
“A post-mortem was conducted yesterday [Saturday] and we are supposed to get the results later today [Sunday], but according to the information we have gathered, he was stoned at the back of the head,” he said.
Sauka said seven fans were admitted to Balaka District Hospital after suffering serious injuries, 20 were treated as outpatients at the hospital while several others suffered minor injuries.
He said so far, two Silver fans—Bruno Makina, 21, from Njolomole Village in Ntcheu and Austin Phiri, 21, from Sitola Village in T/A Sitola’s area in Machinga—have been arrested in connection to the violence and investigations are still going on.
“We could not record statements from them because they were refusing to speak, but we hear Makina is based in Lilongwe,” he said.
Sauka said according to police investigations, the violence was triggered by Silver fans who attacked a Nomads fan and hell broke loose when the Nomads retaliated leading to the commotion.
But Sulom general secretary Williams Banda insisted that police were at fault.
“I still maintain that they could have done better. They also threw tear gas near exit points from outside, which resulted in the stampede,” said Banda.
But Sauka said police fired shots in the air a couple of times to disperse the crowd, but resorted to tear gas after noting that the situation was becoming unbearable.
The two teams were also involved in a blame game.
Wanderers general secretary David Kanyenda blamed Silver for causing the fracas.
“It was Silver fans who provoked violence when they confronted our supporters, the general secretary of Sulom [Banda] was there and he saw what happened.
“We lost a fan as a result of the ugly scenes. It was very unfortunate,” said Kanyenda.
He added that their expectation is that the Bankers will forfeit three points for causing the violence.
To the contrary, Silver general secretary Mike Tembo said it is the Nomads who are to blame for the violence.
“It was their home ground, they were at fault, they started violence and if you may recall, that is why they were banned from playing at Kamuzu Stadium.
“Nevertheless, we are dismayed, we are not happy. We will have to wait for the report,” he said.
The game was abandoned in the 61st minute as the Bankers led 1-0.