Even with Xenophobia Malawi needs South Africa for political and economic growth

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.

Malawi activists protests against Xenophobia

Malawi activists protests against Xenophobia

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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15 thoughts on “Even with Xenophobia Malawi needs South Africa for political and economic growth”

  1. sunderstar says:

    Malawi is a small country and we cannot compare it with South Africa in many ways, where I want to disagree with the writer is the comparison on development. South Africa was already a Developed country even before the start of the liberation struggles in the 1950’s. History tells us that the whites settlers started building the economy well in the early 1800 AD, WHILE Nyasaland was only founded by Livingstone in the 1870’s and was only recognised as a protectorate after the white Missionaries convinced their Government to do so. Malawi was simply a collection of rural villages without any resources to develop it and the whites in RSA and Rhodesia used Malawi as a labour reserve. What I want to highlight here is that RSA attained their Self Government /democracy already a developed country with a very good infrastructure in Place while Malawi Got its self Government in 1964 from a rural backward state and Dr Banda started the development from scratch to where we were in 1994 and what we are now. Please dont down grade Malawians, they have tried since 1964 to the present status, South Africans inherited riches while Malawi inherited nothing but they are trying within their capacity and with Limited resources and because of that let us not accept to be bullied simply because other countries inherited rich economies .

  2. Kanonono says:


    You are very right and on-point. Unfortunately, very few Malawians will be able to buy your ideas. We need people who can think outside the box to develop this country. NGOs are non-governmental organizations in Africa but they are Governmental Organizations back home from where their finances come from. Unfortunately, to make sense out of an NGO post, one must be seen to be talking and talking and talking even if it means talking nonsense.

    Those attacking you for having divergent views are doing so out of ignorance. They might not be aware that much as Malawi has the right to show their displeasure at what has happened in South Africa, overreacting will have far-reaching ramifications on their own country. With an estimated GDP of $7billion, Malawi’s economy gets into South Africa’s by over 70 times. As poor as Malawi is, it is impossible to source meaningful capital locally and thus, FDI remains the only valid way of developing the impoverished Malawi and South Africa offers one of the available sources.

    The other issue that we need to seriously consider, and accept it as gospel truth, is that Malawi is exporting its own problems to South Africa. Let’s find time and ask ourselves as to the academic credentials of most of the people we export to the Rainbow nation. We also need to seriously ask ourselves if any one of our schooled guys, currently working in South Africa, was involved in the fracas and why. The issue is that Malawi is exporting to South Africa some dull people that do not deserve even to reach as far as Blantyre, Lilongwe and Mzuzu. The country is exporting Class Eight dropouts who have nothing really to offer in a foreign country. Much as killing someone is a serious crime, all the more, we should also try to find time and ask ourselves the pertinent question of: Why poor Malawians and not their schooled fellow countrymen who work in various companies and organizations in the Rainbow nation? Put in the shoes of poor South Africans, would poor Malawians be happy to host over 200,000 poor and unschooled South Africans in their country who happily take their unskilled jobs? Of course, as peaceful as Malawians are, you do not expect them to kill, but would they happily say: “We love you poor South Africans as you take up our jobs here in Malawi?” This is why every sane person will think of economic diplomacy and negotiations with the South African Government.

    If Malawi decides to keep these unschooled countrymen within their villages so they engage in farming and other productive undertakings, wouldn’t they contribute immensely to Malawi’s economic development goals? Why should be exporting our problems to other people’s countries? As a country, do we have plans to keep our unschooled relatives and friends busy so they can also make ends meet without trekking to South Africa? Are we building a country that believes that every failed Malawian will have to go to South Africa to make both ends meet?

    This is why I support you Sir even though I also regret at the souls of seven people who died in South Africa.

  3. Malindima says:

    I have heard that RSA will go back to the introduction of visas like was the case with Botha Government.
    This is the first screening. Secondly the deployment of the Soldiers will become permanent on the Borders. Thirdly they will search in dark corners of the cities and will catch and arrest all illegal immigrants and repatriate all if them to their respective countries.
    There is also a campaign to dig on how those legally staying in RSA how they got their papers. Keith this, over 3million Malawians will be repatriated back home.
    My advice to VP Saulos Chilima is to set aside some funds for these events because it is going to happen. Watch the space!

  4. Sibande iwe ndiwe chisiru chamunthu,kunganiza kwako ngati mkazi wako kapena mwana wako womalizayo,kodi ubale mayetsa umakhalapo chifukwa cha anthu. Popanda anthu palibe ubale,iwe ndiwosawuka Malawinso ndiwosawuka kulibwino kuvutika koma abale ako akhale ndi moyo. Zonse walankhula zija wanena chifukwa chaumbuli you are educated salvage. Zaoneselatu kuti ma plane anakupweteka,umawopanso kulangiza ana akoiwe. Ndikubwela utsiya chibwana.

  5. Saini says:

    It does not justifly what South Africa has done ,No man is an island

  6. Jones Shaba says:

    Sibande if one of your relatives was among those that died in the recent Xenopohobia I believe that you would’t have had time to write the well written article as you have done. This means that in your thinking you are not balancing up, that’s why you are thinking in the way a boot-licker thinks. We have not ended up our relationship with South Africa but all in all our message of anger has been passed.

  7. T/A says:

    Sibande iwe ndi chitsiru cha muthu, Galu wachabechabe

  8. cleopas Chiwaya says:

    The fact that South Africa supported or supports Malawi in a number of ways does not justify the xenophobic attacks. It is better to live a poor but dignified life than to be degraded and inhumanly mistreated by the brutal and savage South Africans.

  9. Manjawala says:

    Well, there are still many more old Malawians in South africa. Ur article has carried a very positeve message. I thank u very much.

  10. Joseph says:

    The hospitalisation arguement is rather silly. Why do they go to South Africa when we go to Queens. Is it because they are special so the little unimportant poor people should suffer as we try to preserve the important politically connected and mega rich people’s lives at the masses’ expense? How will they develop our hospitals when YOU are supporting the idea that the rich should be attending hospitals outside the country as if they don’t have their own? Is Malawi not sick to the core because of such thinking?
    Learning from someone and getting support from them is very important and such is life, but there comes a time when YOU the learner, graduates and start applying the ideas on your own. Which sadly is never the case with Malawi. We always keep ” learning” from other economies, always points at other countries that are doing better, but we never apply the skills to benefit our masses. Eventually, we are now considered LEECHES on the backside of those countries we are “learning from”. Then we get someone like this guy who says we should still swallow our pride, tuck our tails in between our legs and “go beg” some more, because apparently, our rich people will go use their hospitals…..

  11. Yokwiya says:

    Preaching peace, diplomacy and negotiation is indeed good for our country. But we should also stop the dependancy syndrome. We even depend on South Africa for petty things like toilet tissues. We should aim to produce our own things. As an agro based economy let produce crops enmasse and we can probably supply them to South Africa and other neighboring countries. We should stop depending on South Africa for medical services. Moreover many do not come back alive. We just spend money for nothing as if we do not have qualified medical personnel here. Why dont we invest on better medical equipment for our hospitals. Later on those afro haters will kill us on their hospital beds. Malawians let us learn to love our country and start to work hard for tangible development. We are lazy in our home country but are known to work hard on menial jobs away from home. Are sensible enough? Shame on us!! We used to have youth week in Kamuzu era. Some guy came to stop it. Shame again!! Wasnt it meant for development. Now you fail to take the sick to the hospital because roads are bad. Who is to blame? Negotiations yes but lets wake up from slumber and work.

  12. Charombanthu says:

    It’s better to have an enemy who slaps you in the face than a friend who stabs you in the back….

  13. Wafa uli Moyo says:

    I think wat iz needed iz develop mw economicaly so that foreigners can invest here.Malawian’ s problem on the other hand:ana akhala akunyoza aphunzitsi kumat ife wa ku Johns watheka kale.i hate the xenophobia and l am concerned neg.tively but let us learn something on that.


    This does not implies that we cannot voice out our anger if S. Africans attacking our brothers and sisters then we must just look and say OH OH S. Africa you are helping Malawi keep on attacking our brothers and sisters NO NO NO, this is only way for Malawi to pass message to S. Africa that your conduct is totally inhuman and shit….!!!!!!!!!!.

    South Africa may helped and still helping Malawi but we are not allowing them to take Malawians lives just like that, no one and i said NO ONE will condone xenophobia attacks ooooh NO NO NO throwing my brother into moving TRAIN, burning my sisters and brothers indeed they died in brutal way. ONLY GOD knows

    Where is DIGNITY here i cannot be mute becoz S. Africa is helping Malawi No No we have to die becoz of SA is helping Malawi hell no…….. WRONG is WRONG ….!!!!!!!

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