My mother has always told me not to pick up strangers on the side of the road as they are most likely going to hijack me. I even remember warnings on the Police File programme telling people about hijackers who claim to be stranded pedestrians who need lifts. Should a car stop, the pedestrian would then pull out a gun, call his friends and hijack the driver.
I have taken my mother’s instruction about this at most times, but not in Malawi and Zambia. The wide open spaces and the serenity of these two countries allow one to be in a free state of mind of not worrying about crime at all. Many Malawians I met seemed really poor, but were also friendly with a sense of contentment with their lives. They appeared to be genuinely happy.
People walk long distances in the scotching heat in these countries to get to their destinations. Stopping and offering them a ride seemed appropriate as I would get to find out more about the countries I was visiting.
They are all hard workers and just about each person I offered a lift to spoke to me about crime in South Africa. Many of them had never been to South Africa, but said they had seen the violent crime on the news.
As I was driving with one man who was rushing to his job at the airport after he had taken a longer than usual one hour break I wondered why many Malawians and Zambians never chase the money which most people in developed economies chase. I realised that it must be the peace that is in the wide open spaces and the lack of traffic that allows one to think carefully about what is really important. I sometimes think Johannesburg traffic and pollution clutter the mind and make us forget what is really important and as a result we end up chasing the rand rather than realising that stopping to breathe in a bit of air clears the mind. Maybe if all South Africans did that no one would want to chase money to buy a fancy car and those who can’t afford fancy cars would not resort to stealing them.
Maybe I will move to Malawi or Zambia in order to be the rebel son I have always wanted to be and go against my mother’s request of not giving lifts to strangers.