JOHANNESBURG: South African President Jacob Zuma was left red-faced yesterday following a public backlash at comments labelling nearby Malawi as backward.
While trying to convince motorists to accept a controversial plan to toll highways in and around Johannesburg, Zuma on late Monday said South Africans need to stop thinking like “Africans in Africa, generally.”
“We are in Johannesburg, this is Johannesburg. It’s not some national road in Malawi,” Zuma said during the ruling ANC party public forum on Monday evening.
His comments went viral on social media, with the opposition party calling him to retract them.
Zuma’s office yesterday scrambled to correct the diplomatic gaffe, saying media quoted him out of context.
“The remarks were made in the broader context of South Africa achieving more in the past 19 years of freedom and democracy,” said his spokesman Mac Maharaj.
He said Zuma was trying to justify the sophisticated road system in the country’s economic hub, saying the roads were better than those of other small towns.