Bright side of communication: Muckracking Xtra

Communication is not just about speech. You can communicate in silence or through body language. Whatever you are doing, even if you are doing nothing, you are ‘speaking’.

Check toddlers when they are sleeping; if they went to bed after you denied them their favourite chocolate, they will be sulking in their sleep; if they went to bed happy, they will be smiling.

Last week I chanced upon an event at the US Embassy’s Public Affairs Section’s auditorium in Lilongwe. They were streaming live the US-Africa summit where our dear old president was among the 40 African leaders in attendance.

Mutharika and his communication strategist Malopa

Mutharika and his communication strategist Malopa

Mavuto Bamusi, the Presidential Advisor on NGOs, was invited to speak because that day’s particular topic was on Open Government, a fodder for the civil society. He came along with Bright Malopa, the Chief Presidential Advisor (Strategy and Communications.)

Perhaps because Vuto and Bright represented the President’s office they were allocated the front seats. I went to talk to Bright, being a long time friend, and ended up sandwiched between the two APM advisors when the function started.

And guess what the Chief Advisor did? When the US Embassy’s Political Officer Tim Johnson was introducing the event Bright opened a book he was reading, The New Machiavelli by Jonathan Powell.

A fitting book for the presidential chief strategist, I must say!

At first I thought perhaps Bright thought Johnson was too junior for the chief presidential advisor’s ear. But even when Deputy Ambassador Michael Gonzales took to the lectern Bright was still engrossed in his book!

And he was not only reading the book; he was busy underlining with a pen sentences he thought Powell made a good point, meaning he was so engrossed in the book, the function was a distraction for him!

And, remember, he was there on the front roll!

I was thoroughly embarrassed on behalf of the Government of Malawi. As a government officer he was supposed to pretend he was following the proceedings even if he was thoroughly bored. He was there representing the President for crying out loud!

And he is supposed to advise good ol’ Peter on communication strategy? God save us!

Get me right, I have known Bright since our teenage years in junior secondary school. He is very ambitious, sometimes too ambitious he becomes too overzealous and almost turns himself into a kamikaze.

But I respect him as a risk-taker. It is, however, high time he learned to juggle between allay-way and high street tactics, if you get my drift.

President Mutharika has a lot of challenges when it comes to communicating his message. He needs good hands to shape him up.

But it seems his chief comms guy needs lots of coaching on Communication 101 himself!

  • The article was published in the Sunday Times
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