Twelve people were arrested in Lilongwe yesterday as authorities broke off light resistance from street vendors and successfully swept clean the nuisance.
Of course at some point, police clashed with a handful vendors and employed the use of teargas canisters before calm reigned for the rest of the day with the main trading centre, Bwalo La Njobvu, turning into a ghost town with no shop opened.
The action coming on the first anniversary of the July 20 demonstrations saw heavy police presence with vendors association stewards in branded bibs and city assembly officials under police escort, forced remnants of the vendors out.
Lilongwe vendors had vowed not to leave the streets to put on course a showdown with authorities but after early engagements, the vendors were out of the streets.
Unlike last year on July 20, there was no blood shed, no loss of life no major looting as the atmosphere of unease calm reigned.
Central region police, John Namalenga described the operation as successful, confirming 12 people were arrested on various offenses during clashes mostly for looting into some shops.
"Our role as police is just to observe but the actual removal of vendors is being done by vendors themselves through their association and city assembly. We are just playing an observer role but only those who break the role are the ones who are meeting us. We have not arrested a single person for illegal vending which is an indication that this has been a success," Namalenga said.
Government had ordered the vendors, who moved back to the streets soon after the change in government in April, to return to designated places by yesterday.
However, human rights activists had condemned the timing on the first anniversary of last year's 20 July demonstrations –the deadliest in the country's history that killed 20 people plus damaged millions worth of looting.
Previous forceful removal of vendors by authorities triggered violence as opportunists took advantage to loot shops and commentators feared the coincidence may invite trouble