By Duncan Mlanjira
United Kingdom ((UK) government has issued an alert on its nationals in Malawi or traveling there on the political situation as the country awaits the Constitutional Court ruling on the disputed May 21, 2019 tripartite elections.
The alert issued on www.gov.uk says the Constitutional Court ruling on the electoral challenge that is expected to be announced in late January or early February 2020 could provoke further violent protests.
“Protests have taken place in central Lilongwe and elsewhere in Malawi and have at times turned violent, with some reports of looting and damage to property,” said the statement.
“If you’re in Malawi, avoid large crowds or demonstrations, monitor this travel advice and local media for updates and keep any local and international travel plans under review.
“You may also wish to stock up on petrol, food and essentials, including any medication, in case normal service provision is disrupted in the short term,” it said.
The statement also warned that spontaneous demonstrations related to governance and economic issues can occur and its citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations and should monitor local media.
It also advised the British nationals that they are free to drive in Malawi using a UK driving licence for up to 90 days or an International Driving Permit for up to one year.
“You should carry a valid driving licence, a copy of your passport and your visa or residence permit at all times when driving, as you may need to produce these at police check points.
“Slow down in all built-up areas. Traffic police often place speed cameras where there are no signs showing the speed limit. The police can impose on the spot fines.”
The report also advises the British nationals to take care when driving on the roads of Malawi and to always wear a seatbelt as well as avoiding traveling at night.
The British nationals are also warned of road potholes as well as unattended to livestock, abandoned vehicles and cyclists that can make motorists cause serious accidents.
“Malawi has a very high rate of fatalities on the road. Traveling between towns by public minibus or pick-up truck isn’t recommended [because] vehicles are often in poor condition and overloaded.
“Emergency services are basic. Larger coach services do run between the major towns and are more reliable.
“Lock car doors and keep windows closed [as] armed carjacking is a risk, especially for drivers of four-by-four vehicles. Don’t offer lifts to strangers and look out for obstructions in the road ahead.”
It also warned of breathalyser tests conducted by the Malawi Police Service that drivers caught drink driving or speeding can have their licences and vehicles confiscated on the spot.
“Convicted drivers face a fine and/or imprisonment. The blood alcohol limit is 0.08g per 100ml of blood (the same as in England, Wales and Northern Ireland).”
The statement also warned of expected heavy floods saying Malawi President Arthur Peter Mutharika declared a State of Disaster on 8 March, 2019 in areas of southern Malawi affected by heavy floods that caused at least 45 deaths and more than 80,000 people displaced.
“If travelling to affected regions, you should take extra care and follow the advice of local authorities.”
On positive note, www.gov.uk says most visits to Malawi are trouble-free, but the British nationals are encouraged to take sensible precautions of personal protection from muggers and bag-snatchers, saying most thefts on visitors take place around the main bus stations in Lilongwe and Blantyre.