LILONGWE--Business in Lilongwe on Friday came to a standstill as most shops remained closed with vendors shunning to ply their trade along the city’s streets which was being heavily guarded by police following a government ultimatum to move out by July 20.
Tension in the streets especially at Old Town could be noted as vendors chose to stay away from selling their goods but rather gathered at different spots around the city. However, some members of the vendors association were seen moving other vendors from the streets to Tsoka flea market.
Similarly, members of the Malawi police service were also seen in battle vehicles and gear in strategic points around the city. Some small confrontations between the two sides led to the release of teargas which for a moment filled the air around the town.
Riot police also formed a line of defense at Police houses at C Company, a sign of caution on its part as vendors continued to gather around the streets.
By 10 AM, most of the shops and banks which had opened for business opted to close down for the day in fear of the unforeseen circumstances between the vendors and the police.
One security guard at Bwaila Standard Bank told Mana: “This branch was open for business this morning. However, as the situation was, it was forced to close down for safety’s sake because you would never know what would happen.”
Correspondingly, Inde Bank Branch, First Merchant Bank (FMB) at area 2 and Opportunity Bank at Malangalala opted to close. Also, Lilongwe market remained closed with no single business activity taking place with its major entry gate chained and locked.
Traffic on the day was also limited as evidenced by a limited number of vehicles on the roads as compared to normal working days.
Public transport operators also observed caution in their operations as on the day Lilongwe minibus also had a reduction in numbers of minibuses patronizing the depot on a regular day. However, there were other minibuses connecting people to various locations. Similarly, as of morning, travelers could connect to other districts as evidenced by incoming and outgoing buses at Lilongwe bus depot.
However, it was a totally different story on the other side of the city as business at Old Town was quite normal.
Almost all banks, Opportunity Bank, FMB, National Bank, Standard Bank amongst others remained open.
Lilongwe City Mall fully operational, major retail shops like Game, Spar and Mr. Price shop was also operational. And while one couldn’t find a single vegetable at Lilongwe market, business was humming at Old Town.
---©2012 The Maravi Post. Reproduction authorised, with usual acknowledgment.