Students from the Polytechnic, unhappy with their lecturers' sudden change of heart over their decision to boycott classes until their academic freedom is quaranteed, run amok today morning, stoning a Police boss idly sitting at the back of a Police Pajero in the company of three other uniformed police officers, as well as beating up a lady journalist working for one of Malawi's biggest newspaper groups.
This happened on a day the Polytechnic students were waiting for their colleagues from Chancellor College- another constituent college of the University of Malawi- so they could match against pro-longed delays to settle the issue of academic freedom once and for all.
Reports reaching Zachimalawi indicate that Chanco (as Chancellor College is popularly known) students have been denied permission (and, therefore, access to such college resources as a bus for transport to Blantyre) to go ahead with their resolution to join Polytechnic students in what they dubbed a 'massive student action' match.
This came fast on the heels of Polytechnic students union leaders' decision to boycott classes on Tuesday, shortly after the college's lecturers agreed to go back to class. The decision followed a voting process conducted by the Polytechnic Academic Staff Committee on Welfare (Pascow), during which 34 lecturers voted in favour of the decision to resume teaching, while 29 were of the contrary view.
Polytechnic students union representatives have since cried foul over the lecturers' decision, saying non-academic members of staff were also allowed to vote- a decision they describe as an 'ill-advised'.
Wednesday (today) started like a day like any other at the Polytechnic, though anticipation was in the air- that Chanco students would join their Polytechnic counterparts in solidarity against government impunity over universal freedoms, including the Kampala Declaration and the Republican constitution, These set academic freedom as a non-derogable right, according to Polytechnic Students Union (PSU) publicity secretary, Bright Mhango.
However, things started to turn loose when, around 08:20, the students gathered in front of the administration block, setting tires and tree branches on fire.
When one of Southern Region Police Headquarters top notch officials passed by the campus in a Nissan Pajero, however, one student threw a stone that sent him ducking (actually, he bowed down as he tried to shield himself from the 'well-taken' stone.
Immediately, one of his aides de camp in front was seen calling his colleagues nearby (some 100 metres from the Polytechnic). And, soon, all hell broke loose.
Reports indicate that Police officers, who invaded the campus- throwing teargas indiscriminately- have arrested over four students, inclusing one of the students union leaders.
It must be reported also that a lady journalist (name withheld) who was taking photos of the action was manhandled, and had the car she was traveling in smashed.
The stand off between lecturers of UNIMA and Inspector General of Police, Peter Mukhito, started when the later summoned an associate professor at Chancellor College, Dr. Blessings Chinsinga, over remarks he made in class equating the (then on-going) protests in Egypt to the impact of people power.
N.B. Excuse me, I am at the Polytechnic now, and police officers have started throwing teargas again...time to run,