On my early-morning run along Victoria Avenue in Blantyre, I felt completely at home. And so I should. Malawi is our little Southern Africa Development Community sister. A two-and-a-bit hour flight away from Johannesburg — almost the same distance between Joburg and Cape Town — it’s not a stretch that there’s a feeling of familiarity, or that dawn’s chilly winter temperature is the same.

I run past familiar SA brand names: turn right at the Standard Bank building, run past Pep Stores. Everywhere are signs that read Collect Money from SA Here. People are on their way to work, walking along streets that have missing manholes and potholes to rival those I run past in my Johannesburg neighbourhood every day. In a few days' time, just weeks after we South Africans went to the polls, this country holds its tripartite election. I met a man from West Africa who expressed astonishment at how little evidence there is of the huge event that is soon to take place in this country. In fact, that there is absolutely no indication that an election is imminent. People are going about their daily life in the typically calm Malawian way. On May 21, the people of this country that is home to 18-million will elect a president (expected to come from one of three of the big parties here). They will also elect MPs and local councillors. And so, as I run down the main road, I am surprised b...

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