When it comes to sabre-rattling, John Kapito, Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director, prides himself as the part master of the game.
Take, for instance, his proposal in January that Blantyre residents empty their toilets tanks and dump the contents at Blantyre Water Board offices in protest against the perennial water shortages. It was so foul it must have persuaded even him to back off but BWB rose to the bait — just.
He is back with the same scare tactics and his victims this time around are the supposed faces of xenophobia in South Africa: Game Stores, Shoprite and Pep Stores.
In a disturbingly verbose statement that reeks of unforgiveable ignorance, Kapito rants: “Malawians… do significantly contribute to the sustainability and growth of the South African economy… We are, therefore, appealing to all Malawians that this coming Friday 24th April, 2015 we must not buy any product or service especially from the targeted outlets such as Shoprite, Game Stores and PEP Stores.”
It has left me scratching my head. What happened to doing a little bit of research to make this protest all inclusive and not seem as if he has an axe to grind with those three companies?
I am not sure whether Kapito suffers from selective amnesia but if the idea is to fight or weaken the South African economy, he should have widened his targets other than just picking on the three. Because they are many and those are just minor players. Their contribution to the South African economy could be minuscule, if not altogether insignificant.
I could take him on his word if he appealed to the corporate world and individuals not to make any transaction with Standard Bank and Nedbank. Both are South African. And both post obscene profits at every year’s end.
Why should Cama target Pep Stores when Old Mutual (a SA company) and Nico (in which a Mzansi outfit, Sanlam, holds a substantial financial stake) make far much more but are excluded from the boycott?
As a consumer rights activists, he should know that money is tight nowadays and I am sure thousands of Malawians may heed his call to lay off Chibuku Shake-Shake and other SabMiller beverages for a day if only to make a political statement.
Some friend of mine, whose addiction to Chibuku Shake-Shake is legendary, has volunteered to lay off the brew only if Kapito can promise not to touch or use anything South African. Which means Kapito can’t buy or use any paper. Most of the papers and toilet tissues are South African. Sadly.
He cannot even drink tea or coffee (beware of the brands) with sugar. In case Kapito didn’t know, there is substantial shareholding by a South African company in Illovo, just as there is in PTC, the so-called quintessential Malawian company.
Now, why should we boycott Shoprite when it also sells Malawian products? Far from striking a blow—feeble as it may be—to the South African economy, Kapito may just as well be ringing the death knell for Malawi’s. There are taxes to be lost, which could ultimately hurt the same people Kapito is trying to protect.
Suppose the three organisations wilt in the face of the threat Kapito and his gang pose and decide to pack up and leave hundreds of Malawians jobless…
I am tempted to think Game Stores, Pep Stores and Shoprite were targeted more for what they stock than for their ownership. After all, Malawian peaceful demonstrations have a reputation of ending in looting.
Instead of acting like the Malawian version of King Goodwill Zwelithini by whipping up people’s emotions against foreigners, Kapito should have organised those protests at Capital Hill, to force the bureaucrats to bring about policies that will create jobs so that Malawians, at their wits end, are not tempted to journey south.
Otherwise, the issue at hand is as much about economy as it is about politics and diplomacy and Kapito, with his gung-ho attitude, seems ill-qualified and ill-equiped for