BLANTYRE-- A senior police officer has been seriously injured following running battles between police and students at the Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi in Blantyre Monday.
Trouble begun when angry students blocked the main Masauko Chipembere Highway with boulders and tree branches. Police fired several rounds of teargas to disperse the students and re-open the highway.
Police spokesman Nicholas Gondwa, who identified the officer as Assistant Commissioner of Police Edward Chingaipe, said the officer was trying to reason with Polytechnic Student Union leaders to resolve the stand-off when unidentified students started stoning him.
"Ass. Com. Chingaipe sustained cut wound in the face, he has a 4cm wide, 2cm deep cut in the forehead, and another on the left cheek," he said. "He has been put on observation at the Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital."
Chingaipe is Officer-in-Charge of the Police Mobile Force in the capital, Lilongwe, and was in Blantyre on official duties.
Gondwa said no one has been arrested for the assault on Chingaipe "but we are investigation, the perpetrators will be arrested".
The students were angered by a protracted stand-off between university lecturers and government over the former's demand for a 113 per cent salary increase following, according to the lecturers, the high cost of living in the wake of the recent 49 per cent devaluation of the Malawi Kwacha.
Maxwell Chisala, deputy Secretary General of the Polytechnic Staff Welfare Committee, said the students were in solidarity with the lecturers.
"The students are fighting for their interests because they see things are getting out of control with no solution in sight," he said.
A student, who didn’t want to be named for fear of reprisals, said it is now close to one month since the lecturers downed tools.
"We are just sitting idle, we came here to learn, let government find a solution to the stand-off," he said.
Since the government of President Joyce Banda devalued the Kwacha and allowed it to float there has been wide-cat strikes in public institutions with workers demanding huge salary increases to compensation for the loss of value of the kwacha. Government has just increased by 25 per cent salaries of water boards after workers of Lilongwe Water Board closed taps in the capital. Government also increased salaries of workers of the Electricity Supply Commission of Malawi by 25 per cent after they threatened to go on strike from Tuesday.
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