|Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium Photo courtesy|
This is not only because Malawi had hitherto qualified only once to the finals, in 1984, but also because the country has qualified at the expense of some of the tournament's regulars, such the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire) and Sudan.
Football experts may offer different reasons for Malawi's successful campaign, but what is true is that southern African nations have generally done well, amid disappointment for South Africa for missing out. For the second successive tournament, southern Africa will have 4 representatives in the tournament: Angola (the hosts), Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. In the previous tournament it had Angola, South Africa, Namibia and Zambia.
This sudden improvement may have something to do with the region's increased political stability: the end of Mozambique's 16 years of civil war, the end of Angola's 27 years of civil war and South Africa's return to international sports after the apartheid ban was lifted has allowed sporting activities to flourish in the region.
Regional football tournaments like COSAFA Cup, which had not existed previously has created rivalry and competitive mentality among southern African nations and this has spilled over to the bigger stage.
I am aware that west Africa has always done well in football despite numerous civil wars in that region. However, unlike in west and northern Africa where most footballers play in more advanced leagues, especially in France, southern Africa footballers lacked such exposure; and therefore, they lack the competitive edge of their west northern African counterparts.
As an African hailing from the south, I am proud that Angola will be hosting the Africa Cup of the Nations, just 8 years after emerging from the longest post cold war civil war. I was equally joyful for them when they qualified for FIFA World Cup in 2006.
I am also happy that South Africa will be staging one of the biggest sporting shows on earth: FIFA World Cup between 11th June and 11th July and it is my hope that at least one of the southern Africa nations does well in these tournaments. At last we can have a generation of children that will grow believing that something is practically possible for them.
Whatever the outcome of the competitions, my plea is that the leaders in the region must not allow this moderate football success to mask the appalling health and living standards of the majority of the people in the region. According to the CIA's "The World Factbook", southern Africa has the worst death-rate in the world. The death league table indicates that SADC is home to the world's worst 3 performers, with Swaziland, Angola and Lesotho anchoring the table. Of the fifteen member states of the SADC, eight of them are among the 20 countries with worst death-rates in the world. These include South Africa, a supposedly shining star of the region in the bottom 12; just one step better-of than Malawi and two steps worse-of than Zimbabwe.
As far as I am concerned, it is time the region, through SADC, sorted out the mess in Zimbabwe and Madagascar once and for all. The DRC situation must also be on the agenda. The region has very serious problems to tolerate any more man-made disasters like the ones these three countries have created.
SADC leaders must not look at problems in Zimbabwe, Madagascar and DRC as problems for particular countries. These problems spill-over and they are not healthy for economic stability and regional integration. The homophobic riots that erupted in 2008 in South Africa are a reminder of the dire economic situation in the region.
The politics of impunity must end. All the perpetrators of any form of injustice and human rights abuses must be brought to justice. SADC must ensure that the interests of people are taken care of first. This must be a primary prerogative of the organisation.
By Jimmy Kainja,
Jimmy hails from Malawi but is currently pursuing a Masters of Research (MRes) degree in Media and Communications at London Metropolitan University.