Dear South Africans, we address you as a Newspaper organisation that believes that your country is close to the hearts of many Zambian citizens.
We the people of Zambia were saddened last week when we learned that our fellow citizens, who are truck drivers, narrowly escaped death in your country after protesters threw petrol bombs at them.
We asked our High Commissioner in Pretoria to explain the attacks that led to the burning down of six trucks in Durban and Limpopo; his explanation left us feeling disheartened.
“Our trucks were caught up in two separate protests, the protest in Durban, according to media reports, involved local drivers who were concerned that they were not getting jobs in the trucking business either here in South Africa or those foreign trucks. The one in Limpopo near the border with Botswana, the three trucks were also caught up in a local protest where the locals were fighting about a disputed chieftaincy. But all this happened in a period of 10 days where we have lost six trucks,” Ambassador Emmanuel Mwamba explained.
Dear citizens of Mzanzi, this is uncalled for. We understand your anger and frustrations, but we are certainly not the cause of your problems. If you think your country has challenges, let’s exchange leaders for just a year, you will see what it means to have problems at the end of that one year term. We don’t know how you rate your relationship with us, but from our point of view, South Africa is Zambia’s closest neighbour. It is closer than Malawi, Mozambique, Botswana or any of the geographically adjacent countries.
There are several reasons why this is so. Economically, according to the World’s Top Export index, South Africa is Zambia’s biggest trade partner on the continent and among the top five in the whole world. In terms of human interaction, there is no country in the world with more scheduled passenger flights landing and taking off from Zambia than what we have with South Africa.
Even without the flights, which only the affluent businessmen and politicians can afford, a majority of us Zambians love to come to South Africa for many reasons. Sometimes we don’t actually have any viable reasons, but we just come to do chimpwena because your country is the Europe that we can afford to visit by bus. The skyscrapers in your Johannesburg are the fantasy of our Lusaka.
You are ironically lucky that you did not chase away your colonisers early enough and after grabbing your land, they left you a country that is attractive to all the less privileged nations around you. We come to learn in your universities and we love to visit the ocean shore while picking up our second hand cars from Japan.
But that does not make us a worthless people deserving the treatment that you gave our truck drivers. We may not have good politicians leading us; we may not be accruing any meaningful revenue from our natural resources because of bad governance; we may not be able to host the World Cup in the next 100 years because we have no infrastructure. But we are among the world’s top five richest countries because we consider love as the strongest currency on earth.
Dear South Africans, we love you more than you think. We the people of Zambia have big hearts and it is never in our nature to target foreigners when our economy takes away the little that we have. In Mzanzi, you don’t ask for directions from a stranger because that is putting your life in danger. In our country we treat foreigners, especially whites with preferential care. We can’t even explain that complex, but that’s just who we are.
Even the jobs that you are crying for, we do employ a lot of foreigners ourselves. Those trucks you burnt down may have been coming from Zambia but there is a good chance that they were being driven by foreigners; who may well be South African. In fact, the trucks may actually be Zambian-registered but owned by a foreigner.
That is how big our hearts are. We have Chinese coming into our country, getting our land, our minerals, our money and leaving us cholera from their fake mineral water supply, but we let government authorities deal with them. They shoot our labourers at the mines, but not one day have we attempted to revenge by killing them.
You may call it stupidity, but we call it love because since 1964, our founding president Dr Kenneth Kaunda has been preaching to us “Love your neighbour as much as you love yourself, do unto others what you would want them do unto you”. That is the spirit in which we put aside our own economic hardships to aid you our beloved South Africans in achieving your desperately desired political emancipation.
We are not claiming to be perfect. We also have our own violent Zambians whom we are tirelessly trying to reason with. Of course they are not as prosperous as your violence-mongers who can afford petrol to waste. Ours use pangas because even paraffin is too expensive in Zambia. But nevertheless, their medieval style of violence has taken away the lives of our jobless youths. That is why it pleases us to see our citizens being employed in the private sector as truck drivers.
So when you see us in your country, we are not there to cause any trouble. In many cases, if we are not coming to leave our hard earned income, we are trying to use your water to send our copper abroad so that we can keep our small economy going. It is these business interactions that make trade volumes between our two countries constantly high.
And to be frank; we don’t really care much about sustaining this economic relationship because there are several other countries in the SADC region through which we can access international waters. But there is something that the economy cannot take away from the relationship between you and us. Our history, our politics, our blood; we are your brothers and sisters. Please don’t kill us.
We are sorry that your Nelson Mandela went too soon while the political heat was still tense and your racial differences had not been adequately resolved. But our Kaunda is still breathing; if he means anything to you as he does to us, go ahead and invite him to come and address your nation. Give him a guitar on state television and he will sing you his love anthem, “Do to others, what you would love them do to you”. This song will help you pick a new heavenly heritage, ours is love.
With love, from Zambia.