From the DRIVER’S SEAT

Land Rover AFRICA Magazine - - NEWS - Andy Mark, Pub­lisher

I love Africa so damn much. One of my favourite places to visit on the con­ti­nent is Lake Malawi. In par­tic­u­lar, a spot in south­ern Malawi that goes by the name of Cape Ma­clear. It is a spot that has re­ally stolen my heart. The vil­lage’s proper name is ac­tu­ally Chembe, and it’s in the Man­gochi re­gion of Malawi. The wa­ter in the lake there is fish­bowl clear. The beaches are clean and the golden sand fine be­tween one’s toes. There is an is­land a few hun­dred me­tres from the shore that pro­vides in­cred­i­ble snor­kel­ing, with schools of hun­dreds of colour­ful fresh­wa­ter fish ev­ery­where you look. The only thing more im­pres­sive than the fish is the dis­tinc­tive sound of the many fish ea­gles that have made their home in the rocky crags of the is­land. And that is why I am in­censed, out­raged, and just plain pissed off at the tiny mi­nor­ity of crim­i­nals that con­tinue to dam­age our con­ti­nent’s tourism in­dus­try.

Malawi re­lies greatly on tourism to bol­ster its econ­omy. The usu­ally broad smiles on the af­fa­ble lo­cals’ faces be­lies their life of hard­ship. Poor as some folk are that live there, they are quick to re­turn a friendly wave as we drive past. Dur­ing my vis­its over the years I have never felt threat­ened by crime or ban­dits. We have had noth­ing stolen off our ve­hi­cles – not to say this doesn’t hap­pen, it just hasn’t hap­pened to us. The soft and friendly na­ture of the Malaw­ian peo­ple is at stark odds with the sense­less and vi­cious at­tack on a South African over­lan­der this June. The vic­tim was camp­ing with friends in a re­serve at Karonga in the north­ern bor­der dis­trict of Malawi. Hear­ing a scream, he ex­ited his tent to help a woman who had awo­ken to find her­self ac­costed by sev­eral ban­dits in her tent. The South African trav­eller was shot dead. Lo­cals are con­vinced that the gang that robbed the man of $200 are crim­i­nals that had crossed the bor­der from Tan­za­nia, but no one re­ally knows. The po­lice are still in­ves­ti­gat­ing. An in­ci­dent like this, as hor­rific as it is for the fam­ily in­volved, is hor­rific for Malaw­ian lo­cals too, who will lose tens of thou­sands of tourism dol­lars and be forced even fur­ther be­low the poverty line.

While back home in South Africa we don’t need vi­o­lent crime to keep tourists away. No sir, here we have our very own Depart­ment of Home Af­fairs to do that. Their ridicu­lous new immigration re­quire­ments have al­ready im­pacted tourism num­bers. What’s more, no one at Home Af­fairs or bor­der con­trol quite seems to know what is go­ing on. In some coun­tries, they don’t even have an ‘unabridged’ birth cer­tifi­cate, mak­ing tourism travel here im­pos­si­ble. One can only hope that com­mon sense will pre­vail soon.

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