Representatives of Malawi and South Africa governments yesterday agreed to ease trade and migration woes following talks ahead of a meeting between the two countries’ leaders.
President Lazarus Chakwera arrived in South Africa yesterday through Waterkloof Military Airbase in Pretoria and is set to hold bilateral talks with his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa today.
But ahead of their leaders’ meeting, ministerial talks have been ongoing in Pretoria.
One of the focus areas is the status of Malawian migrants currently under detention for illegal entry in South Africa or expiry of visas or work permits amid complaints that they were being held in deplorable conditions and for lengthy periods.
The Malawi delegation includes Cabinet ministers Eisenhower Mkaka (Foreign Affairs), Patricia Kaliati (Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare), Richard Chimwendo Banda (Homeland Security), Khumbize Chiponda (Health), Sosten Gwengwe (Trade) and Ken Kandodo (Labour). Some of the ministers visited about 100 Malawians in detention at Lindera Repatriation Centre.
Both Chimwendo Banda and Kaliati confirmed that Malawi had engaged its counterparts on the matter.
Chimwendo Banda said discussions focused on speeding up the repatriation process and how the migrants can be supported during the detention.
He said: “We have so many Malawians in South Africa, some do come without passports, some are considered illegal immigrants so there are times when they are taken by the police and they are sent to Lindera where they are staying more than 150 days and most of them are suffering so there are many issues that South African government and ourselves need to tackle.”
Chimwendo Banda said on their part, South Africa government representatives expressed concern over Malawi being used as a transit route for undocumented migrants from the Horn of Africa, among others. He said Malawi and South Africa are working to address the challenge, including reviewing the Immigration Act.
Kaliati, who confirmed that a ministerial delegation visited the Lindera centre to review the plight of the 100 plus Malawian detainees, said the two sides have also engaged in fighting human trafficking and ending child marriages.
Earlier yesterday, as Chakwera flew out of Kamuzu International Airport on a chartered Malawian Airlines plane, all political party supporters who went to see him off twere restricted to the area outside the airport runaway a sharp departure from recent tradition. Few Cabinet ministers and Vice-President Saulos Chilima saw off the President.
The development follows his directive to end the tradition of public officials needlessly following the President to every event.
Meanwhile, Soth Africa yesterday welcomed Chakwera’s visit, saying it will “strengthen and deepen relations between the two countries”, according to a statement’s from South African Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The trip to South Africa is the fifth for Chakwera since becoming Malawi’s sixth President following his triumph in the court-ordered Fresh Presidential Election on June 23 2020. To date, he has visited Zambia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.