The minibus demonstrations that took place on September 1st, came as a shock to many. They were not highly publicised, which meant a lot of people had no knowledge of them taking place. Many people in Blantyre were left stranded due to the lack of transportation. People would fight to secure a seat in the available minibus that popped up, so they could get to work. However, many did not know the reasons of the demonstrations. And while I do not have the full information on the minibus demonstrations in Malawi, I would like to share the little that I know.
Reasons for Demos
I first heard of the demonstrations on radio, MIJ FM when one representative of the minibus drivers gave an interview. Here were some of the reasons they detailed plus those heard on the streets.
- The first complaint was to do with the heavy fines they have to pay due to Covid-19 measures violation. Minibus capacity was heavily reduced once covid got serious. Most minibuses went from taking 14 people, to just 9 people. The driver and conductor were to ensure that all passengers were putting on a mask. And hand sanitizer of hand wash was to be given to them when boarding.
- Secondly, the issue of targeting by the law enforcers. They accused traffic police for targeting them the most when it comes to the compliance of the covid 19 measures. Unlike the other vehicles that roam the streets.
Overall, their issues centered on exploitation by the traffic police which most stated where oppressive.
Demos and Violence
The minibus operators had agreed to suspend all their operations on the day of the strike. Their plan was to hold a meeting in Limbe and make agreements on the way forward.
But like most sheep, one goes astray. Some minibus drivers decided they would operate while their friends met. And this, did not go unnoticed.
A few pickups were assigned to patrol the streets. One rule,
ANYONE FOUND OPERATING, DEAL WITH THEM.
And dealt with they were. I remember one minibus was caught by the patrol car right next to our offices. In a split second, it was surrounded with men carrying panga knives. Some passengers fled using the door, while some made use of the windows. The minibus driver and conductor were beaten badly. The windows of the minibus were broken. It was a scene.
For the first time, people witnessed the true rulers of the streets in their might. Like knights, with their shining armor, and hungry for blood.
But this was not the only cause of violence. There was something more. Something that always tickles my fancy. The MIGODI came alive.
Migodi Orchestrated Violence
In the midst of all this, there was a war happening right in front of people’s eyes. The wars with the migodi came alive.
The last time I wrote about Migodi, fights had erupted over leadership. Most migodi around Limbe now have new leadership. However, that created an issue.
Some of the juniors that were under the old leadership decided to be two-timers. They devised a plan. It was easy; they would take information from their old masters and feed it to the new masters to gain their favors. Information varied from strategies devised in the old camp on how to gain back their migodi, to new modes of making money.
Within a month, the old masters found out about their plan. And like they say,
Snitches get stitches
Their stitches came through yesterday. The old masters roughed up the juniors badly. Some tasted the lips of the panga knives. There was blood in Limbe, unknown to those that were not looking.
I remember a friend asking if Limbe was calm in the afternoon, and with clenched teeth, I said yes. It might have been a half truth. Because, the area was calm to anyone that was not looking. The scenery was taking place in an open area, open to the eyes of many, that chose not to be blind.
Cheers to the old times
With everything that took place, many in my office could not stop cursing Bakili Muluzi. Because many remembered the old days when buses were the main sources of transportation within cities. When minibuses were not available. When migodi did not exist.
For the first time, one could fall in love with Blantyre. Even with the chaos, the city was quiet, peaceful. No shouting of “Highway Blantyre.” No callboys. Just clean streets and quiet.
However, this battle is not over yet. We might’ve already gotten back to our status quo, but it will strike again.
Remember to comment down below, all your thoughts and opinions are welcomed and appreciated.