Malawi President Peter Mutharika has praised the efficiency and effectiveness of Lilongwe City Council fire brigades in fighting the Lilongwe market, saying their conduct has saved some property.
However, this sharply contradicts what Local government and rural development minister Kondwani Nankhumwa said when he accused the fire brigades of coming late to the burning market with little fuel and fire fighting water.
Nankhumwa maintained his statement, saying he was speaking with “facts from the ground” and not hearsay.
Mutharika is in the United States where he went to attend the UN general assembly whilst Nankhumwa was at the market hours after the fire ravaged the market.
President Mutharika also heaped praise on the Malawi Defence Force and Aviation department for helping fight the fire.
He asked the police to speed up with investigations on the cause of the fire.
Vendors protested violently on Friday, accusing the council fire fighters of responding late, two hours after the fire started yet their offices are barely two kilometres away from the Lilongwe Old Town where the market is situated.
On Saturday, cabinet ministers and traders in the market were locked up in a meeting.
Market secretary Daniel Kamala said a number of issues were discussed and the ministers made huge and fruitful contributions during the discussions.
“We discussed the issue of where the traders will be operaing from as we await a new modern market. We were offered the Lilongwe Community ground but we thought it is far from town and we agreed that we construct temporary stalls on the site of the burnt market and we will move out after the government identifies funds for the new market,” he said.
He said issues of compensation would be dealt with after all victims have been identified.
Kamala said the identification exercise of the market fire exercise would be done on Monday as each one will be told to stand on the ashes of the former stall identified by stall neighbours and market officials.