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Police blamed for public loss of trust

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By Rebecca Chimjeka:

Political analysts and human rights defenders have blamed Malawi Police Service for abandoning their duties during the two-day mass demonstrations, which saw protesters looting shops in Lilongwe and Mzuzu.

Lilongwe and Mzuzu were the worst affected, with incidences of break-ins and looting of shops.

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But National Police spokesperson, James Kadadzera, said they would arrest all those involved in looting.

“We are aware of all incidences that have been registered and we will arrest all those that have been involved in looting. It might not be very soon but we have taken account of all the incidences and Malawi Police Service is a professional entity. We will remain professional,” Kadazera said.

But Chancellor College-based political scientist Ernest Thindwa said the police officers abandoned their duties during demonstrations, leaving some demonstrators to loot shops as was the case in Lilongwe and Mzuzu on Thursday and Friday.

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He said the police have been paralysed as they are unable to tame ruling party cadets and now find it difficult to discipline civilians.

“Police have not been able to protect civilians from ruthless cadets; citizens have lost faith in the police and they are turning on them at any given opportunity. Overwhelmed by citizen anger, the police, lacking public support, are slowly but steadily retreating and a dangerous security vacuum is emerging. This security lapse could fuel widespread civil conflict,” Thindwa said.

He urged the authorities to show political maturity by restraining from practicing partisan politics and deal decisively with the current potentially explosive challenge.

Human Rights Defenders Coalition Chairperson, Timothy Mtambo, said it would take time for the citizens to have faith in the police again.

Mtambo said more people have more confidence in Malawi Defence Force officers.

“People are comfortable to relate with the army than the police, a thing which is very surprising because, in other countries, citizens cannot play with the defence force. Our police have been infiltrated by people that are tarnishing their image. Malawi Police Service needs to do soul-searching as to why people have lost confidence in it,” Mtambo said.

He said the human rights defenders have to find ways of civic educating Malawians and convincing them to respect the police.

Mtambo has meanwhile distanced HRDC from acts of violence.

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