South Africa’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it summoned Zambia’s ambassador on Thursday after its vice president was quoted telling a British newspaper that South Africans were arrogant and “I hate” them.
Relations between Zambia and South Africa are normally cordial. However, Zambian Vice President Guy Scott’s comments reflected the reality that many of South Africa’s neighbors feel they live in the shadow of its dominant economy, which makes up about two thirds of the GDP for southern Africa.
“The South Africans are very backward in terms of historical development,” Scott told the Guardian newspaper.
“I hate South Africans ... They really think they’re the bees’ knees and actually they’ve been the cause of so much trouble in this part of the world,” he said.
He also likened South African President Jacob Zuma to former South African President F.W. de Klerk, leader of the apartheid government that ended in 1994.
South Africa, seeking a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, has been throwing its weight around the continent, with three overseas military deployments and a successful campaign to place a South African as the leader of the African Union.
Zambia and South Africa, two of Africa’s stronger democracies, have been working to make sure elections this year in Zimbabwe are held peacefully after a disputed 2008 poll caused a flood of refugees.
“South Africa has taken note of the negative remarks on South Africa attributed to Mr Guy Scott, the Vice President of the Republic of Zambia,” South African foreign ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela said in a statement.
The spokesman said the ambassador had been summoned “to seek an explanation behind the remarks and what it means in the context of our bilateral relations.”
Zambia’s High Commission in Pretoria said in a statement the two countries “enjoy very warm relations” and are “long standing partners in the liberation struggles.”
Scott is one of Zambia’s more popular politicians. He became vice president after Zambian President Michael Sata, nicknamed “King Cobra” for his sharp tongue, was elected in 2011.
“I dislike South Africa for the same reason that Latin Americans dislike the United States. It’s just too big and too unsubtle,” he said.
Zambia was the main overseas base from the 1970s for the African National Congress, which now rules South Africa, when it was a liberation movement trying to oust the white-minority government.