Malawi on Wednesday summoned South Africa's top diplomat to Lilongwe over President Jacob Zuma's disparaging remarks about the country.
High Commissioner Cassandra Makone was asked to explain a Zuma statement seen as suggesting that Malawi was backward, when discussing South Africa's road infrastructure.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Quent Kalichero told AFP that Makone was "summoned to discuss the issue". The envoy held a meeting with top foreign ministry official George Mkondiwa but Kalichero declined to provide details.
On Monday, Zuma sparked controversy when he tried to convinced motorists to accept the country's plan to toll highways around Johannesburg.
"We are in Johannesburg, this is Johannesburg. It's not some national road in Malawi," he said
On Tuesday, Zuma's spokesman Mac Maharaj defended the statement, saying it was reported out of context.
He said Zuma was trying to justify the sophisticated road system in South Africa's economic hub.
During an interview with a local talk radio station, Maharaj apologised Wednesday for the comments, saying he had received numerous angry call from Malawians.
"Let me apologise for that and withdraw it," he said.