I noted in several channels that many Malawians were perturbed by comments made by South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma in October 2013 when he referred to the National Roads in Malawi in a seemingly negative light.
I would perfectly understand the reaction of a citizen of any country whose country was referred to by another country’s head of state in such light. Indeed sometimes the truth hurts. More so for Malawians in this because their anger might not be directed at Jacob Zuma’s comment, but at their own leaders for the people cried for a very long time for their leaders to improve basic infrastructure including the roads but they got so neglected and dilapidated that they were now being used as examples in this way. All this in the wake of stories of rampant corruption and the looting of tax-payer money by top government officials and their cronies.
I lived and worked among South Africans in South Africa from January 2009 to August 2013. One of the things that puzzled me was their (including Black South Africans) reference to all countries north of their country as “Africa” as if South Africa is in Australia. I couldn’t understand why but I eventually realized that there was an element of superiority in it. This superiority was fueled by the fact that we “Africans” have all been trekking down there looking for opportunities and dreams. You can’t blame them for looking down on a region which treks into their country in multitudes as if there is nothing in back in our home countries. Let’s fix our backyards people.
If I remember correctly, the only news about Malawi in the South African press that was presented in a positive light between end of April in 2012 and August 2013 when I left South Africa were the reported selling of Malawi’s presidential jet and Malawi’s monthly saving of about $20,000 due to the cutting of the President’s annual salary by about 30%. Talk Radio 702 ran with those stories for a whole two weeks singing praises about Malawi. Since then, the only major news of interest that they ran with was the Madonna VIP treatment debacle and abandonment of her girls’ school building project; all presented in not-so-good light for Malawi.
We cannot change the way others, especially South Africans, think about us if we are not fixing our backyard by at least taking the people running our country at all levels and their cronies to account. Our laissez-faire attitude as Malawians, breeds the type of leadership that we get.
I understand the people’s anger. Indeed, we can vent all we want but this is an issue that should be officially taken up by our leadership, foreign affairs or diplomatic services. At least a diplomatic statement of displeasure. If anything just, for the record. On the citizens part, I suggest looking at this from the angle of free publicity for our beautiful country. Then twist the comment; shifting attention to what Malawi has to offer. This goes especially to Malawians in South Africa. That is why I wrote the blog post Mzansi Spotlight on Malawi’s National Roads and sent the link my South African friends and former colleagues and to South Africa’s Eye Witness News Channel.
I am A Proud Malawian, I am An African.
Let’s Do This.