MASERU — Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has urged Basotho to take recent disparaging remarks about Malawi’s roads by South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma as a challenge and not feel ridiculed.
Zuma made the controversial remarks about Malawi while responding to questions on the contentious e-tolling of South African roads, at the African National Congress (ANC)’s Manifesto Forum at Wits University, saying, “We can’t think like Africans in Africa generally. We’re in Johannesburg, this is Johannesburg. It’s not some national road in Malawi.”
Addressing his All Basotho Convention (ABC) party rally in the Tele constituency earlier this week, Thabane said Zuma’s mockery of Malawi’s roads should be used as a tool to advance Lesotho’s road network in order not to “give people like Zuma something to talk about”.
“We need to push for this country’s advancement because we do not want to be ridiculed by people like Zuma. Whenever they pour scorn, let it not be about Lesotho but other countries,” Thabane said.
Thabane said Zuma was daring African counties to “strive harder towards their advancement”.
Zuma’s remarks have been perceived to be labeling Malawi and other African countries as backward even prompting the summoning of the country’s High Commissioner to Malawi.
Mac Maharaj, spokesperson for the Presidency subsequently apologised and withdrew Zuma’s remarks on Malawi.
“I’m surprised that people are angry at Zuma for saying Jozi (Johannesburg) streets are not like those of Malawi,” Thabane said.
“Instead of feeling insulted, Malawians should take Zuma to be taunting them to act and develop their roads to be like those of Gauteng.”
Thabane said if ever Zuma had made a reference to Lesotho “I would have taken it to be a challenge to improve my country”.
He added jokingly: “I’d tell Zuma it is okay and that I take his remarks to be a dare. However, if we were to close those valves at ’Muela Dam, no one in Gauteng could use their bathrooms as they flush with and drink water from Lesotho.”