You must be a hard man not to feel for the hallowing tales spewed out by our compatriots who are fleeing xenophobia attacks in South Africa.
It is commendable that Vice President Saulos Chilima detailed two senior ministers – Atupele Muluzi and Kondwani Nankhumwa – to lead the sad welcoming party of the first batch of the returnees last Monday night. It demonstrated empathy on the part of government.
But government must realise that there is more to these young men trekking down south than meets the eye. If you were at Kamuzu Stadium that Monday night you would have noted that the majority of the returnees were young men south of the age of 30.
And the majority were barely educated, most of them recently married on the pilgrimage to the ‘promised economic land’ to launch themselves as men.
The kind of jobs these folks do down south are basic – house helps, shop or filling station attendants et cetera. These Malawians – like their Zambian, Mozambican, Congolese or Ethiopians counterparts – are preferred because they can accept almost anything dangled before them. They can work long hours without extra pay while South Africans can go on the picket lines once something as basic as bread price rises.
Chilima and Nankhumwa, who I must acknowledge showed exceptional leadership in this crisis, both know how they can address the problem. Because folks who trek down south are neither properly educated nor exceptionally skilled, both the Vice President and the Information Minister tout the community colleges President Mutharika launched the other day as a solution for this southward trek.
But, if truth be told, we had the Malawi Young Pioneers during the Kamuzu days but still young men trekked south for ‘Joweni’ or ‘THEBA’. So the community colleges may massage the symptoms but may not cure the problem.
Bringing our stranded countrymen back home is one thing, keeping them here is another.