Monday, September 06, 2010

Uneasy Relations

Today as I walked along Paul Kagame road I witnessed an incident in which an Asian-looking business-man driving a car slightly hit a cyclist who had a passenger. The motorist was at fault because he turned from the road suddenly and without regard for the persons on the bicycle. What followed was interesting. The two men (apparently black Malawians) were knocked down but got up without much bodily harm. They stood and just stared at the Asian motorist, then after a few moments got on the bike and cycled away. I had assumed that the two would confront the driver for his recklessness!

The aftermath reminded me of what I heard from a certain professor two weeks ago in Salima at a workshop on conflict management. In essence the learned person was saying race relations between 'native' Malawians and those of Asian origin or Asians in general are quite uneasy and there is always simmering tension in interaction between the two groups, if I can permitted to make such a generalisation.

Come to think of it, there is very little social exchanges between Malawians and their 'Asian' counterparts. I'm not quite sure about the stereotypes 'Asians' have about black Malawians (again permit me to have such a label). But 'black Malawians' usually take an 'Asian' as oppressive, a profiteer and not interested in school but business. Actually there is a saying 'miyendo pindize ngati mmwenye mu sitolo' literally meaning a person relaxing with their legs crossed like an Asian in his shop!
Add to this melting pot a story I read in a local Malawian newspaper that some 'Asian' youths had beaten up 'black Malawians' because one of the 'locals' had dared propose love to their sister!!
I agree that the relations are uneasy between these two groups, and there is so much mistrust, fear, stereotyping and prejudices. I wonder how the situation can be normalised considering that the 'natives' and the 'Asians' have lived alongside each other for a long time indeed!

(NB: As the two persons who had been knocked down walked away I sensed fear in them, and I saw a care-free attitude in the driver who didn't even bother to check the condition of the cyclist and his passenger!)


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