By: Happy Arnold Soko
Blantyre City Council (BCC) and Blantyre Police have been caught on camera chastising vendors during their operations in the streets of Limbe.
After witnessing the abuse, The Malawi Star engaged some vendors who described how police officers and government inspectors often in civilian clothes and without any form of identification ill-treat street traders, including many women under the pretext of cleaning up the streets.
This publication interviewed some street vendors who vividly described how police seize their goods, extort money from them through bribes, threaten them with severe punishments, and sometimes arrest them.
“Every day we run our business full of fear of the unexpected visit from the police and city officials. The Police and city officials vigorously beat and rob traders in plain sight of numerous eyewitnesses on a regular basis.
Of late, the streets of Blantyre are filled with rumors that the police and city council officials have demanded sex favors from ladies who visit their offices to redeem seized goods,” said Thomas.
The video that The Malawi star has captured depicts how a woman selling Airtime is being harassed. Eyewitnesses threatened to retaliate to this unbecoming behavior from the police.
Eyewitnesses suggested that the government should immediately issue public orders to stop police brutality and ensure that any removal operations are conducted by professionals operating with full respect of the law.
Police crackdown on the streets has increased since the government declared that authorities would remove street vendors in an attempt to keep townships clean and reduce the crime rate.
Many of the round ups follow a similar pattern. Government inspectors usually carry batons and armed police officers approach groups of street vendors with force, chase the vendors, hit them hard, and seize their goods.
Vendors automatically lose their commodities once they are seized by the officials who are accustomed to vandalizing everything they forcefully collect from the streets. According to vendors, the seized goods are either taken by the authorities for their own consumption or destroyed on the scene.
However, Blantyre City Council (BCC) spokesperson Anthony Kasunda was not available for comment.