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Why Guy Scott might hate South Africa

By Neil Achary

Guy Scott, who is vice-president of Zambia and, incidentally, a white Zambian, has ruffled a few feathers by saying that he hates South Africa. In an interview with The Guardian, although he seemed to imply that he likes South Africans on an individual basis, he dislikes South Africa for the same reason that Latin American nations dislike the United States, our country is too “big” and “unsubtle”, according to Scott.

Some might say that Scott is just jealous. I have always thought that we South Africans are a likeable people, and our country is generally quite welcoming to visitors. Growing up in the UK, I have met many different people from many countries, including Zambia, and not one of them has said that they hate South Africa when I tell them where I am from. There may be banter about the Springboks, our cricket team, Jacob Zuma, or even my accent. When I read what Scott said, it reminded me of some of the chitchat I hear going on between decent-minded Australians and New Zealanders, or Americans and Canadians, or even the English and the Scots. It is merely friendly rivalry between people of one country, and people from its smaller, more in-the-background neighbour. I would not be surprised if even Zimbabweans, both white and black, feel the same way about us. Therefore, it could just be a case of jealousy between countries with a shared history of colonialism.

Digging further, we can gather that Scott believes that South Africa, because of its economic size and influence, has developed a superior attitude towards the rest of Africa. Given that South Africa occupies a number of international positions, such as in the G20 and Brics, it is easy to see why Scott could feel this way. As the only African nation on these bodies, there might be a feeling that South Africa should be articulating the African agenda on behalf of the continent, but is not doing so. Zuma unfortunately does not have the diplomatic credentials of Thabo Mbeki, so South Africa’s foreign policy has been inconsistent and confused at times. Take South Africa’s stance on Libya. South Africa voted in favour of implementing a UN no-fly zone, but some time later, changed its position and began to join other countries in criticising Nato intervention. Some people may rightly criticise foreign-policy decisions during the Mbeki era, but one thing you cannot fault them for is inconsistency. Then, there are recent reports that while South African banks and businesses are setting up shop in Nigeria, Nigerian companies have struggled to gain a foothold in South Africa. Is it that we are happy to do business in Africa as long as they do not try to take away our local business?

South Africa is in an enviable position, as many investors see it as a gateway into Africa. This is one reason why South Africa was invited to join the Brics grouping. However, it is easy to get fatheaded in such positions, and perhaps Scott’s beef with South Africa is that our diplomats are getting a bit ahead of themselves with regard to South Africa’s position in world politics. South Africa is absolutely not an emerging superpower — it does not have the economic growth levels necessary, and the military capabilities of our armed forces leave much to be desired. However, South Africa does have this position as a foothold for business in Africa, which means that any economic success is linked with that of the continent. As the saying goes, “with great power, comes great responsibility”.

Reflecting on Scott’s comments, there is a clear bemoaning of the apparent lack of diplomatic style when it comes to South Africa dealing with its neighbours. Our government should not behave as if we are better than our friends on the African continent. I think it could do better to put forward the African agenda. And in attempting to do its best for its citizens, should also aim to benefit our neighbours on the international stage. After all, South Africa is literally joined at the hip to the rest of Africa. If South Africa fails, then Africa fails and the same is true the other way round as well.

Neil Achary is a civil servant and has a master’s degree in African studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London.

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    • GrahamJ

      “If South Africa fails, then Africa fails and the same is true the other way round as well.”

      Errr, no. South Africa failed a while back and I didn’t notice a difference in Kenya or Nigeria.

    • Doc Spock

      I have been longing for someone to comment on Guy Scott’s mutterings. Thank you.

      I think his comments are great because in Africa political leaders do not criticize any other African country, that is very un-African. Funny that it takes a white skinned African to break that mold. :-)

      In addition, African countries regard South Africa as little Europe. That too says a lot, we are actually not part of Africa, we have our own western style agenda.

      Finally, we should realize that our current foreign policy is based on what is good for Zuma and his business cronies is good for South Africa, so a big middle finger to people of the rest of Africa.

    • bewilderbeast

      Yeah. Or he might just hate Souf Africans . . . .

    • chisanga

      The comments which have been made by Mr scott are childish and suddening. Instead of concentrating on improving our country`s relationship with this southern african great country. He is destroying what our father Kk had established. We Zambians love south africa. We benefit alot more. Please Mr scott keep your old Zambian mentality to yourself. Viva Mzansi.

    • Dave Harris

      Its no secret that SA’s role in BRICS is seen as a threat by the usual suspects. The recent hype in our corporate mainstream media surrounding the Guptas is not surprising since India, like other BRICS countries, are rapidly gaining momentum in making several strategic FDI investments in SA and many other African countries. The apartheid beneficiaries who still have a stranglehold on our economy feel threatened by competition from BRICS, so their fear is understandable. Giving the inconsequential ramblings of Zambia’s Guy Scott importance in our media is pitiful but shows the desperation of our corporate controlled media.

      Emerging competition among economic superpowers for FDI in Africa is good for Africa as opposed to the centuries of brutal colonialism that Africa has been subjected to. This new world order means that it won’t be business as usual ex-colonial powers.

    • Nick Motsatse

      On the contrary Neil, our diplomatic stance with all its failings, is very accommodating and welcoming to our fellow Africans – often requiring great sacrifices by South Africans. The success of South African businesses in countries like Nigeria is not a consequence of the hospitality and great diplomacy by Nigeria. It is sheer grit and determination.

      While there may be subtle resistance or even resentment, except during moments of sheer madness as seen during the xenophobic attacks on foreigners, towards foreign business people doing business in South Africa, in most cases the resentment towards South African business in other parts of Africa is tantamount to open hostility.

      I have not read the full version and context of Guy Scott’s remarks but I think any effort to justify such remarks is strange. In a different setting I think those remarks would amount to hate speech.

    • Musa Khumalo

      I hate South Africa under the leadership of Zuma. I miss Mandela,Thabo Mbheki and Mothlante. I can count beyond my toes and fingers of what is seriously wrong with South Africa of present. I then conclude that Guy Scott has my vote for his dislike of South Africa. Thank you Neil for your informed article.

    • Pig-dog

      The only reason South Africa is a member of BRICS is because it is seen as the gateway to open markets up in Africa for the other BRICS countries.

    • Pig-dog

      @Nick Motsatse

      “In a different setting I think those remarks [Guy Scott’s] would amount to hate speech.”

      You must be joking or are you really that paranoid?

    • Neil

      Thanks for your comments, chaps.

      @Nick – Guy Scott’s full remarks are at

      What I was trying to figure out, in writing the article, was why Scott said what he said. It may be that he is simply a motormouth or there may be a deeper reason. He is apparently on leave and a Zambian government spokesperson said that he would be asked to explain himself. But I do believe that South Africa should definitely consider its position in the African continent. Are South Africa’s interests the same as Africa broadly? I think it’s unclear under the Zuma government.

    • Ian

      I hate the condescending arrogance of the US too, and we should not fall into that trap, if we want to play our part in pulling the continent together, as we should.

      I fully understand Guy Scott’s comment and we need to become much easier to do business with.

      Would help greatly if we did away with the absolute nonsense around visas.

      That is a Victorian concept.

    • The Critical Cynic

      enough Sans working in africa will tell you that Guy’s remarks merely reflect a growing anti-SA stance that has accelerated significanly in the last 4 years and they will also tell you that a lot of it reflects directly on the arrogant superior self-serving ANC attitude towards outsiders. Nick is not joking when he says it borders on open hostility. The ANC are nationalists and socialists and thanks to their so called leader (and his ‘family’) are fast gaining a reputation not to be trusted, so it’s no wonder that SA is starting to be disliked to varying degrees throughout Africa. Had Guy said he hates South Africa instead of South Africans we would better understand the sentiment without taking it too personally.. after all, just as we know that the Republicans do not represent all Americans we can be thankful that the ANC don’t represent all South Africans, neither by vote nor by the drivel they speak.

    • The Naked Worker

      @Critical Cynic

      “The ANC are nationalists and socialists”

      No – The ANC are nationalists and capitalists.

      The free market flourishes far more now than it ever did under the old apartheid National Party.

      Socialists provide good education, decent health care, living wages, decent housing and real unemployment benefits to their citizens from the cradle to the grave.

      Capitalists grab what they can despite massive unemployment (22% in our case) with very poor delivery of basic services.

    • Momma Cyndi

      I’m afraid that Scott was simply saying what the rest of Africa seems to feel towards the SA government. They don’t like us. They find us arrogant and controlling. They go out of their way to put in place trade barriers and they really don’t like our meddling.

      It is sad but SA is in danger of becoming the USA of Africa

    • Tilting @ Windmills


      Great conspiracy theory. Maybe the citizens of many (most) countries suffer the same indignities as you and your family when they visit foreign countries. Get your facts right before ‘putting it down to’ your last paragraph.

    • Brian B

      Perhaps Mr Scott should enroll in a Dale Carnegie ‘How to win friends and influence people” course.
      Zambia is land locked and depends on South African ports. South Africa is Zambia’s biggest training partner. need I say more !
      It seems that his ego takes precedence over his countries prosperity and his words are inarticulate and guaranteed to annoy, regardless of whether they are valid or not.
      Wind your jaw in Mr Scott you are out of your league.!

    • Shaun

      Stopped reading at “Zuma doesn’t have … Mbeki”

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Zuma’s biggest achievement is getting rid of Mbeki and his Aids denialism and his dream of Arab re-colonising of Africa; as well as getting rid of Malema (who in the end was also supporting Mbeki).

    • Momma Cyndi

      Brian B

      South Africa only makes up around 10% of the Zambian trade markets. The largest market is Switzerland followed by China

      As for ports, there are more convenient ports than SA for goods. The rail line directly to the Tanzanian port is a lot closer and would not have to go through Zimbabwe or Mozambique to get to us. Therefore, I doubt their exports or imports go through Port Elizabeth

    • anteros

      “If South Africa fails,
      then Africa fails”

      this might be the sort of common and seemingly innocent sentiment that would trigger remarks like Scott’s.

      if multiple tsunamis ripped SA off the tip of Africa and appended it to the south pole, Africa wouldn’t collapse… most Africans wouldn’t even notice.

    • Brian B

      Momma Cindi. exports yes. Consumer goods stiill come predominantly from SA.
      Point is you wont change your neighbors by insulting them.
      Better to use diplomacy.than behave like an old British colonial bwana !

    • Momma Cyndi

      Brian B

      We make up around a third of the imports into Zambia but it was declining by around two to three billion a year (not sure if the trend has continued).

      Nobody should insult their neighbours but people who get blunt criticism shouldn’t be childish about it either. When someone gives criticism, the adult thing to do is to analyse what was said for any truth. You don’t grow as a person or a country by being stubbornly defensive about everything that is said.

      Truth be told, Zambia has a far higher opinion of us compared with some other African countries.

    • The Critical Cynic

      @ The Naked Worker
      I agree but they have to play the socialist angle for their tripartate alliance partners. I forgot to use the sarcasm font on ‘socialists’ or call them pseudo-socialists. The ANC would certainly rebut anyone saying they are not socialists despite all the evidence pointing to them being firmly committed to perpetuating global economic apartheid.

      @ Dave Harris – to disregard a politically volatile, albeit stereotypical statement by the vice president of a neighbouring country about our citizens as inconsequential ramblings displays the exact kind of arrogance that fuels such opinion of South Africans. If what the vice president of a country has to say is of no consequence in your mind then how much less your or my opinion? totally of no value whatsoever I suppose…

    • Feel the Love

      If South Africa showed some love for its neighbors and fellow countries on the continent, it would feel the love in return.

      You cannot ride roughshod over others and expect them to love you unless they have masochistic tendencies..