Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Students Riot in Mzuzu, 11 in jail, K2.4 million damaged

11 male students of Viphya Secondary School in Mzuzu are to remain in custody until Friday after Senior Resident Magistrate for Mzuzu Magistrates Court, Gladys Gondwe, denied them bail in the case where the 11 are answering charges of malicious damage and rogue and vagabond.

The students were arrested on Tuesday morning following a rampage that Viphya students went on in protest against their schoolmates' suspension.

According to Viphya's headmaster, Mabulabo Lungu, the incident was a peak to events that started a week earlier.

One student, Sipho Chirwa is reported to have rallied four students to beat up Dalitso Moffat who had come to check his MSCE results. Sipho told his friends that Moffat had bullied him the previous year. Moffat was cornered and properly beaten but the students were surprised to note that Sipho himself had warned Moffat of the impending attack.

To punish him for his confusionist tactics, the four students in turn beat Sipho up drawing the wrath of his father who threatened the school with a lawsuit. The school then acted promptly and suspended the four students on Friday, a move that prompted the students to stage the riot. Siphon was also suspended.

The riots began at midnight on Monday and it was 40 minutes after the riots broke up that the police came and they were too late. The four students were not available at the campus at the time but the headmaster alleged that they were in the background organising the riots.

"The total damage is pegged at K2.4 million and if there are any sympathisers out there let them come and see what the students have done. Was the school wrong in suspending violent students?" asked Lungu.

Lungu also alleged that a group of 15 ring leaders forced others to break the windows and that resistors were beaten.

When the reporter went to the school, almost all of the window panes were broken, some desks were lying in half and there was a silent aura that ran about the deserted school famous for its prowess in science-based subjects.

Police initially arrested 52 students 16 of whom were girls. All the girls plus other 25 boys were released indefinitely on Wednesday and the rest appeared before court.

The court was packed with guardians and sympathisers on Wednesday afternoon. The 11 were crammed into the witnessed stand and looked very intimidated coupled with their lack of representation.

Prosecutors charged them with three counts: conspiracy to commit a felony, rogue and vagabond and malicious damage of property amounting to K2.3 million but the magistrate struck off the felony charge after the prosecution failed to substantiate it.

When it was time to take pleas, three of the 11 pleaded guilty and the rest had to be listed as not guilty after they dilly dallied in answering with some saying that they partially accepted the charges but argued that they couldn't have done all the alleged damage by themselves.

Magistrate adjourned the case to Friday morning but, to the surprise of many, remanded the boys in custody.

The school which was closed following the riots will open on 3rd January and the headmaster said that the board of directors has not yet met to decide on what punitive measures the other students will face.

Viphya secondary school is owned by Roger Nkhwazi, Douglas Mwenitete and a Mr. Kamvazina, it is situated just past Kaning'ina on the road to Nkhatabay from Mzuzu, and it is famous for not offering subjects like Chichewa and concentrating on scientific ones.

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