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15 arrested over Mangochi vandalism

RUINED—One of the damaged shops

Fifteen people were on Friday taken into custody by Mangochi Police, following acts of vandalism, allegedly by Muslims who damaged some liquor shops within the municipality.

This has been confirmed by Mangochi Police Public Relations Officer Roderick Maida, who added that the suspects are facing charges of causing malicious damage and inciting violence.

Among others, the angry mob had destroyed five liquor shops and an office block for Davido Lounge which has been holding live events since its opening three months ago.

Apart from liquor shops, the mob also smashed three windscreens for vehicles belonging to people who were found drinking beer at one of the drinking joints within the town.

According to eyewitnesses, the angry mob embarked on the act in a bid to force authorities in the district to ban the selling of beer.

Maida has since said investigations are still ongoing.

Another source within the police corroborated that the suspects have been charged with two counts of malicious damage and conduct likely to cause breach of peace.

“We are still making some arrests because the attack was well planned, meaning that there are people who were leading the group,” the police officer said.

Mangochi Muslim Association of Malawi (Mam) Chairperson Sheikh Fahad Kansuli could neither confirm nor deny that the angry mob was made up of Muslims, saying the association will issue a statement in due course.

Meanwhile, Mangochi Second Grade Magistrate Court on Saturday granted bail to 12 of the 15 suspects.

State Prosecutor Efford Kaphonje said the suspects were taken to court in compliance with the law that require that suspects be formally charged within 48 hours from the day of arrest.

When they appeared in court, the suspects asked the court to give them bail pending trial.

Kamphonje did not object to the bail application.

He however asked the court to give them strict conditions to deter them from repeating such acts.

Second Grade Magistrate Augustine Mizayah granted bail to the suspects, on condition that they report to Mangochi Police every Saturday.

In addition, the suspects were ordered to pay K30,000 as bail bond and their sureties to pay K20,000 each.

The attack on liquor shops came after weeks of speculation in Mangochi about some Muslims who are allegedly not comfortable with selling of beer in the district.

At one point, Mangochi Town Council officials, accompanied by some members of the community, had closed all liquor shops for allegedly not complying with standards.

Mangochi Town Council Chief Executive Officer Funny Msimuko said the council was working to fulfill its mandate of regulating businesses within the town.

However, the shops were re-opened on Thursday last week after remaining closed for about 10 days.

Despite the council issuing business and operating licenses to the liquor shops, Msimuko said some of them were operating in places which were not designated for selling of liquor.

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