History Of Malawi

TODAY IN THE HISTORY OF MALAWI: protests, riots and looting in Lilongwe

From Blantyre the previous day, protests and riots spread to Lilongwe on the 7th May 1992 where Chakufwa Chihana was due to appear at the High Court to be charged with sedition.

The High court had ordered the state to bring Chakufwa Chihana to court and press charges against him or furnish reasons for his continued detention.

News clip from BBC Focus on Africa, 6 May 1992.

On this day, the 7th of May, a large crowd gathered outside the court chanting that they wanted to see the “brave man” and when the state failed to produce Chakufwa Chihana, people went on rampage in a similar fashion as protesters in Blantyre the previous day.

Over 6,000 people marched to town calling for immediate and unconditional release of Chakufwa Chihana and demanding multiparty system and freedom from one party state rule.

The Police used tear gas and live ammunition to break up the essentially peaceful demonstration, and this led to rioting and vandalism.

The district offices for the ruling Malawi Congress Party (MCP) in Lilongwe were burnt down and PTC supermarkets owned by Dr. Banda through the Press conglomerate were vandalized and looted.

According to official records, Chakufwa Chihana, as the General Secretary of Southern Africa Trade Union Coordination Council (SATUCC) then based in Lilongwe, left Malawi for Zambia on 3rd March 1992.

On his return to Malawi on 6th April 1992, he was arrested upon disembarking from a Johannesburg/Lilongwe flight at Kamuzu International Airport.

He was found in possession of a number of documents including the following:

  1. Call for all churches  to speak out against human rights abuse in Malawi;
  2. Malawi: Prospects for Democracy- Key note address at the conference in Lusaka;
  3. Address by Chakufwa Chihana on his return to Malawi on 6th April 1992

The state’s position was that these documents were seditious and so their importation and possession were therefore unlawful.

Just before leaving Johannesburg for Lilongwe on 6th April 1992 on his way from Lusaka, Chakufwa Chihana held a press conference on the struggle against Dr. Banda regime and his mission to fly back into Malawi to confront Dr. Banda head on.

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