The recent South Africa’ xenophobia and afrophobia have left us, Malawians, heartbroken and angry. Many have expressed their disappointment through the social network and other media platforms, while others unleashed their anger further by protesting and delivering an anti-xenophobia petition to the South African Embassy in Lilongwe on Tuesday, April 21, and later pushed for the closure of South African shops, including Game and Shoprite on Friday, April 24.
But while we are trying to let go of our anger and frustration, and show South Africans that even in our chronic poverty we are capable of taking action against them, it is very important that government, leaders of Civil Society Organizations, and the general public get sober, subdue emotions and reckon four important facts of political and economic importance:
First; when Peter Mutharika became president in May 2014, he announced during his inauguration that while he intended to keep Malawi’s tradition donors, from the West, he was going to establish stronger relations with emerging global economies including China, Russia, and South Africa. This means that South Africa is one of the strategic bilateral partners that the government of Mutharika intends to strengthen and partner with in order to deliver the promised growth and prosperity. Therefore, in our anger and frustration, let us bear in mind, that we have positive relations to safeguard with South Africa, for our own good.
Second: South Africa maybe one of our fellow struggling States on this poor African continent. But, in reality, South Africa is far ahead of Malawi and Africa in general. For instance, South Africa is a member of the G20, the G8 plus 5 and the BRICS. When the BRICS agreed in early 2013 to establish a global fund which would rival the IMF, South Africa was able to commit a contribution of $ 5 billion to the pool, which I believe is a demonstration of a strong financial muscle for an African government. And given this status of South Africa on the global political and economical spectrum, South Africa holds significant geopolitical and economic influence on the African continent and the rest of the world. Therefore, Malawi needs to preserve positive diplomatic relations with South Africa’s to secure South Africa’s political and economic backing.
Third, South Africa and Malawi are twin democracies, which were born only a few weeks apart in April and May 1994, respectively. Nelson Mandela and Bakili Muluzi, were welcomed together at the 30th Summit of Organization of African Unity in 1994, in Tunis, Tunisia, as newborn democracies of Southern Africa. But despite starting the democratization journey on the same foot, South Africa has progressed better and harvested great economic benefits of democratization than Malawi. I therefore feel, Malawi has a lot to learn from South African democracy, only if we maintain positive diplomatic ties.
Fourth and last; Malawi has since 1967 when we formally established diplomatic relations with South Africa, depended on South Africa in several ways, and they have always rendered us help in our most critical times of need and desperation. For instance, when Dr Banda finally relocated the Capital City from Zomba to Lilongwe in early 1975, Britain, trashed the relocation of the Capital and called it an unnecessary move, and refused to render Dr Banda financial assistance for construction of the new Capital. But it was the South African government that came to our rescue. South Africans did not only finance the construction of Capital Hill and the needed additional infrastructure, but designed the city, and provided construction engineers too.
And allow me to skip TEBA, through which our grandparents, raised money to educate our fathers, and remind us that Malawi has relied so much on South Africa’s advanced medical facilities for our high profile politicians and top government officials. For instance, former president Dr Banda was taken to Garden City in South Africa where he died in 1997, former Second Vice President, Chafukwa Chihana, was taken to Garden City in South Africa, where he died in 2006, Speaker of Parliament, Rodwell Munyenyembe, was taken to Milpark Hospital in South Africa after he collapsed in Parliament where he died in 2005, the Late President Mutharika’s body was flown to South Africa for preservation, and the South African government bought Mutharika’s casket and with due honour, flew his body back home, and rendered fuel assistance when Malawi suffered fuel shortages. And recently in 2013, when government Budget Director, Paul Mphwiyo was short in the face, in a Cash-gate related crime, he was taken to Milpark Hospital in South Africa, where his face and life were saved.
My conclusion is that, while as the people of Malawi, we mourn deaths of our relatives that were brutally murdered by South Africans, and while we sympathise with those that have returned safely home, but having lost hard-earned property and wealth, let us bear in mind that South Africa is way ahead of us, and a tit-for-tat type of reaction will not punish South Africa, but hurt us more. Let us consider, that our President, Peter Mutharika, eyes for South Africa’s economic and geopolitical position, to gain the need support for our growth. Let us preach peace, diplomacy and negotiations with South Africa.
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