Blantyre - Malawi police said on Monday an officer was axed to death and one person shot dead in clashes with stone-throwing opposition activists after a weekend rally by President Joyce Banda.
Police spokeswoman Rhoda Manjolo told AFP police had to fire in “self defence” after a hostile crowd attacked the officer. One demonstrator was shot and killed.
The policeman was declared dead on arrival at a hospital in Blantyre.
The clashes occurred shortly after a rally by Banda at Goliyati village, east of the capital in Thyolo, a stronghold of her rival Peter Mutharika of the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Malawi heads to the polls on May 20.
Opposition supporters earlier attacked rally goers with stones, according to presidential spokesman Steven Nhlane.
Stones came within 100 metres of the podium where Banda and senior party officials were sitting, causing “quite a security scare,” said Nhlane.
The rally proceeded after police fired tear gas to disperse the hostile crowd, and the president left safely under heavy police escort.
“But things worsened after the rally ended as the mob continued to throw stones at the crowd, forcing police to fire tear gas to control the situation,” Nhlane said.
Wakuda Kamanga, an official of Banda's ruling People's Party (PP) told AFP several party members were injured in the skirmishes.
Several government vehicles and one belonging to a senior party official had windscreens “bashed and windows shattered, injuring most of the occupants.”
A car belonging to the public Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) was “extensively damaged and the particles of a broken windscreen seriously injured the eyes of two MBC journalists,” a senior official at the state broadcaster said.
Banda, previously vice president, came to power in 2012 following the sudden death of president Bingu wa Mutharika.
She faces three prominent contenders including Peter Mutharika, a young brother of the late president, at the elections due in May.
Peter Mutharika was accused of trying to usurp the constitution and Banda's succession in a plot that involved keeping his brother's death secret for days by flying his body to South Africa. - AFP