I think the Mutharika administration has been making all the right noises as regards the unfortunate happenings in South Africa, Africa’s second largest economy after Nigeria, during the past fortnight.
(In fact I believe Nigeria just got its figures right; South Africa is still Africa’s largest economy, just look at how many Nigerians trek to South Africa in search of greener pastures.)
The official figures put the death toll at six (as of Friday) and the Malawi government say there are no Malawians among the fatalities. But testimonies from Malawians I personally spoke to tell another story.
But, for now, let us stick to the official version of events.
That said, I guess the Malawi Government’s reaction was not only timely but also decisive. That K60 million was quickly cobbled together from our zero-aid budget to rescue our countrymen must be commended.
Official figures say at least 1,000 Malawians are in the temporary Internally Displaced Peoples (IDP) camps in the KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng area. This covers the metropolises of Durban and Johannesburg.
But we know thousands of Malawians, legally or illegally, trek to South Africa daily. (Billy Mayaya puts the estimated figure of Malawians in South Africa at more than 200,000, there could be much more.) Some Malawians could have married South African women or men and mastered isiZulu or Sepedi and escaped the xenophobic attacks.
But there are thousands who are vulnerable. So I say Vice President Saulos Chilima and Information Minister Kondwani Nankhumwa were right on the ball when they drummed up the ‘Africa, One Continent’ card in condemning the xenophobic attacks.
The Malawi Government must proceed to present a case to the African Union to censure South Africa and hold people like King Goodwill Zwelithini and Edward Zuma criminally responsible for their thoughtless statements that may have sparked the xenophobia attacks.
But, after bringing t he stranded Malawians home, what next? These people, the majority of whom are from districts like Mangochi and Mzimba, are barely educated. They went to South Africa to do odd jobs in restaurants or at service stations.
What has the government planned for them once they come home? It is one thing to safely bring them back; it is another to sustain them here.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :