South Africa Apologises For Jacob Zuma’s Malawi Jibe
South Africa has apologised for controversial remarks President Jacob Zuma made on Monday about Malawi. Mr Zuma was widely quoted in the media as saying that “this is Johannesburg. It’s not some national road in Malawi”.
He made the comment as he tried to convince people to accept plans to impose tolls on highways around Johannesburg.
On Wednesday, Malawi summoned South Africa’s top diplomat in Lilongwe to protest about the remark.
“The next step is to wait and receive the official statement and map the way forward,” senior foreign ministry official George Mkondiwa told Malawi’s privately-owned radio Zodiak, AFP news agency reports.
Malawi is one of Africa’s poorest states, with many of its nationals working in South Africa, the regional power.
Speaking at a meeting organised by the governing African National Congress (ANC) on Monday, Mr Zuma reportedly said: “We can’t think like Africans in Africa, generally. This is Johannesburg. It’s not some national road in Malawi.”
South Africa’s public broadcaster, SABC, reports that Mr Zuma’s spokesman Mac Maharaj has apologised to those who felt offended by the comments.
International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said South Africa will never look down on another African country, SABC quotes her as saying.
Mr Maharaj initially said Mr Zuma had been quoted out of context, as a political storm broke out in South Africa over his speech.
While South Africa has many toll roads, the government is facing strong public opposition to its plan to introduce, for the first time, electronic tolling for roads between Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria.
Many commuters, backed by businessmen and unionists, say it will increase travelling costs exorbitantly, something they cannot afford.
The government upgraded existing motorways in and around Johannesburg for the 2010 football World Cup.
It says the work was not free, and it now wants the electronic tolling system to retrospectively finance the roads.