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Chaos in Mzuzu as Mayor attacked, two injured

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A GROUP of unknown thugs suspected to be vendors from the Zigwagwa Market yesterday morning descended on the house of Mzuzu City Mayor, William Mkandawire, where they vandalised property and attempted to torch the house.

The Sunday Times gathered that this was in retaliation to the city council’s decision to demolish shops at the Zigwagwa Market where authorities say the vendors are operating illegally.

Narrating the ordeal Mkandawire said it was around 1:00AM when he heard strange noise outside his house, before the mob pelted stones at the house, breaking its window panes in the process.

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He said the masked people were armed with pangas and iron rods while others carried cans of petrol to be used to set the house ablaze.

“It seems it was a planned operation and without doubt they were after my life. I have wronged no one and I don’t know why I should be targeted,” Mkandawire said.

When The Sunday Times visited the scene, it saw broken window panes, vandalised doors and a perimeter fence spattered with petrol, indications of a foiled criminal operation. During  a public address later yesterday, Mkandawire assured residents of security.

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He however said all data of council business has been lost. He has since asked churches and community leaders to help the council bring the culprits to book.

The assailants’ other target according to Mkandawire was city ranger Benjamin Ngwira who was away at the time the attackers terrorised his house.

“I came out to see what was going on after I heard the noise. I was chocked and beaten hard because they mistook me for my father. Some of them suggested that I should be shot while others insisted on blasting the house with the petrol bombs that they carried,” said Swabi Chirwa one of Ngwira’s wards.

It all started at around 9:00pm on Friday when four patrol vehicles from the city council were deployed to demolish structures at the Zigwagwa Market in an effort to drive vendors from the area which belongs to the Department of Aviation.

This angered the vendors who mobilised themselves to protect their property and accused the council of collecting market fees from the alleged illegal business place. Police have since described the demolition exercise as an act of provocation.

“It’s unheard of and unacceptable. We don’t want to believe that those are government officials from the council. They are thieves that’s why they came at night. And yes we fought back and we will not relent in safeguarding our right to earn a living,” said one of the vendors Wezi Gondwe who claimed to have lost property valued at about K1 million during the exercise.

Few minutes after the commotion at the market, council offices at the Mzuzu Stadium in which the Department of Planning was housed went up in flames. Council spokesperson, Karen Msiska, said the suspected arsonists are the irate vendors who were too many in number to be handled by the guards.

“Failure to put out the fire was because the office was full of paper files and bundles. Computers and other valuable items were also therein. We are still assessing to come up with the monetary value,” Msiska explained.

He, however, stressed that well-wishers were quick to rescue equipment belonging to the National Registration Bureau (NRB) which was kept in the offices.

Msiska said the city council went ballistic on the vendors as the exercise was conducted with due diligence and in the confines of the law after issuing warning and a notice order to the vendors. Police have not yet effected any arrests in connection to the incidents.

“I can confirm that two people have been injured: an NRB official has been treated as an outpatient while the other one is admitted to Mzuzu Central Hospital. But we have deployed more officers within and in the outskirts of the city to ensure peace and stability,” said Deputy Police Spokesperson in the north Maurice Chapola.

Meanwhile, the vendors have threatened to fight to the end and yesterday morning blocked the M1 Road from Mzuzu to Karonga in protest.

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