Minister Mtambo and Asian Communities agree to draw roadmaps for ending racial and xenophobic attacks

The Minister of National Unity, Timothy Pagonachi Mtambo, and the Asian Communities in Malawi have resolved to collaborate in ending hate speeches, xenophobic statements and racial tendencies in Malawi.

Malawi has registered a sudden rise in racist attacks and hate speeches targeting Malawians of Asian origin following recent revelations that some businesspeople of Asian origin have been conniving with senior political and government officials to defraud the Malawi Government of billions of kwacha meant for various development projects.

During the anti-graft protests last week, angry citizens hurled insults at businesspeople of Asian origin, calling them “thieves” who are up to nothing, but to destroy the country.

However, the generalization has not pleased the Asian Communities in Malawi, who feel they are being victimized for crimes they never participated in.

Mtambo posing for a photo with Malawians of Asian origin

Under their Asian Business Community (ABC) and Lilongwe Business Community (LBC), the concerned businesspeople sought the intervention of the Ministry of National Unity, arguing not all the Asians in Malawi are crooked.

Chairman for the Asian Business Community, Manzur Bheda, said not all “amwenye” subscribe to corruption; hence, it is wrong to paint every Malawian of Asian origin with one bad eye of an individual.

“So, to paint everybody with the same brush is wrong, we believe corruption is wrong, we believe in the rule of law. We also believe that having also lived in Malawi since the late 1800, we believe we are part and parcel of Malawi. Some of us may be of Asian origin but have never visited India and I think it’s very important for everybody to understand that we should be judged on individual merit,” said Bheda.

He added that the racist attacks have negatively affected their businesses since the trust that was the has been lost.

He noted that there are issues which the community needs to improve on but he expressed concern that there have been cases where issues have been twisted, which he argued is not good.

“Let me state also that as far as developing the Nation is concerned we have joined from 1964 to date. Let me also be very clear that during independence our community sided with the independence movement.  So, it is very important for people to understand there is now a new generation of young Malawians who don’t know the full story. It’s very important to acknowledge the good and fix what it is not good,” he explained.

At the same meeting, an old Asian man cried before telling the participants in fluent Tumbuka, I was born and raised in Kafukule in Mzimba around the 1940s and Malawi is the only home I know have. We have never, in the past, been included in these conversations on peaceful co-existence and unity as part of the Malawian society. Thanks to the Chakwera Administration.”

In a separate interview, Bheda told Nyasa Times that their meeting with the Minister of National Unity on Thursday was fruitful and they have greed for further consultations, regular consultation not only with the ministry, but also with other sectors of the society.

“We have had a wonderful meeting, the meeting has come up as a result of so much confusion within the community and within the social media and one of the things that we have highlighted is the fact that there has been a tendency to paint everybody with the same brush and we feel just like everybody else we should be recognized as individuals with specific characters. There is a whole spectrum of characters also within the Asian community not everybody’s mind is exactly the same,” he said.

In his remarks, Mtambo expressed his ministry’s commitment to open contact and dialogue surrounding the integration and social cohesion.

He said it is also proper to find out the causes of citizens’ sudden change of attitude to the Asians resident in Malawi and find the best means of resolving them.

“As a ministry responsible for national unity, it is imperative that we should engage the Asian Community to listen to their grievances and see how best the issues can be resolved to ensure there is peace in the country and at the same time no discrimination and no xenophobic attacks on people of Asian origin.

“So, basically, we wanted to hear the issues at hand and I can say they are concerned with growing anger towards their community, they are concerned with Xenophobic attacks, they are concerned with them being painted with one brush whenever there’s one person who has done something wrong.

“So fundamentally they said they are open for dialogue, there are issues out there which people are raising which are genuine there are also issues out there which people are raising because maybe they don’t have information. So as community they want to open up to engage the society, that was the emphasis and they said there are some issues that they want to commit to come up with the research kind of audit for people to appreciate the real picture of what it is, the commitment on land issues.

“So it was a very productive meeting where I saw people acknowledging that indeed as a country there are some issues that we need to address, issues of inequalities but we need to address them correctively. So as a Ministry that is responsible for national unity, peace we are actually calling upon all Malawians that whenever we have misunderstanding and challenges this is a path that we need to take,” said Mtambo.

He added that during the meeting they agreed on concrete issues that needs to be taken as a roadmap moving forward.

“There were issues that have been raised basically issues like integration issues, economic issues, issues to do with land and issues of minimum wages, treatment of workers because the discussion was mainly informed by what people say in public.

“So as a Ministry we are going to come up with a roadmap of engagements where the issues that were documented are going to inform us what kind of stakeholders can we bring on table so that we form a dialogue process.

“We want this to be a national dialogue and eventually we strongly believe that we shall come up with a National conference where we need to find the final solution to issues that exist amongst ourselves,” said Mtambo.

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