Freedom of expression must be guarded at all cost in Malawi

“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” ~ Noam Chomsky

Most people have returned to work from festive holidays, it always a welcome break if not a necessary distraction. Yet, the realities we left behind remain: industrial actions across Malawi are still holding and National Aids Commission’s (NAC) MK5 million saga shows no sign of abating. The NAC issue is still here mainly because pride, arrogance and political patronage stand in the way of honesty and transparency. I have not seen any convincing and honest argument or reason why Beatify Malawi benefited from NAC’s money.

Free speech is a right not a lottery

Free speech is a right not a lottery

It was clear from the outset that whoever was going to form a post 20th May 2014 elections would have a monumental task of delivering on their promises (if they meant it) and steadying the national economy while donors were still withholding their up to 40% of annual budget support. Yet, no one could have thought that the first public demonstrations would be against a first lady’s trust (meant to “beautify” Malawi) benefiting from money it should not have.

That money happened to be for such an important cause of fighting diseases such as HIV/Aids epidemic. One would think that organisation of NAC’s importance would have its funding procedures clearly laid out for the public to see – clearly spelled out how one qualify for the funding. It should be this straightforward. But because the issue involves the country’s first lady and her flagship national initiative, it has become unnecessarily a clouded one and polarising one.

There are people defending indefensible. These are people who only see ‘reality’ through political party colours, people who are happy to trade greater national interests for meagre personal gains. Sadly, this is how Malawi rolls! Educationist and blogger, Steve Sharra recently reasoned:

“We have people who have inside information about murders, massive theft and plunder, and other heinous crimes against the nation. But they choose to keep quiet. They hold their personal interests and narcissistic considerations above the national interest. They have no sense of national conscience. They selfishly hold themselves bigger than Malawi. They do not wish the country well… They are content to see the country continue haemorrhaging economically, yet they have the knowledge of who stole what and how they did it. And that plunder still goes on today.”

As in the words of George Orwell, in time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act. Every honest person familiar with Malawi would resonate with Sharra’s sentiments. These sentiments are definitely heavy on those who prefer avoiding reality than accept the hard truth. And so it appears that Malawians who are unhappy with the (mis)handling of NAC money and have decided to take to the streets demanding that the First Lady’s trust return the money, are having to justify themselves. This is because there are forces trying to frustrate and thwart their noble duty of demanding transparency and accountability.

I respect everyone’s views on the issue and pretty much everything. Everyone is entitled to their views and opinion. Our constitution allows and some would say encourages it. Freethinking is a pinnacle of democracy and freedom of person. Freethinking, however flourish when people also have the right to publicly express themselves publicly. This includes the right to hold peaceful demonstrations. Demonstrations for right causes and against injustice are in fact an act of patriotism, not to the contrary, as some Malawians would want us to believe. American essayist, Edward Abbey rightly observes that “a patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government.”

In Malawi we have developed an unfortunate perception that demonstrations means chaos, destruction, theft and loss of lives. This is not true. The truth is that it is our reluctance to truly uphold and protect people’s democratic rights that have given public demonstrations a bad name. There are always Malawians, peddling as “good citizens” trying to stop fellow Malawians exercising their right to demonstrate. This is what creates room for violence and looting. The problem is not demonstrations but our attitude towards it. Fear mongering compromise security, this is what must be criminalised, not demonstrations, as it were.

As Rivera Sun observed, “a freedom given up is not so easily regained.” Demonstrations have to be defended, at all cost, whether we agree with demonstrators or not. It is self-defeating to think we can pick and choose which types of freedom we want to defend and promote. We must defend all of it or be against all of it. We must not let petty partisan politics and greed come in the way of our hard-earned democratic rights.

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13 thoughts on “Freedom of expression must be guarded at all cost in Malawi”

  1. kalekeni says:

    Abale! osalodzana chala. Nkhani ya kumacha siya PP ndi a Malawi. Boma likulamulidwa ndi DPP nanga zikuyendaso bwanji kumatchula za PP? Kodi anthuwo analembedwa ntchito ndi people’s party? Be honest guys, if it was a family issue we could invite traditional authority to announce for nomination. Atate athu awa nzeru zikuchepa, Malawi ndidziko lochepa koma anthu ali ndi nzeru za kuya. Ndiponso anthu asanamidzire kuti anaphunzirira sukulu kunja, nthawi zambiri ndi boza ndiponso nafenso tiri ndizathu zotsata.
    Zachisoni guys; miyezi 7 yokha zochitika mbweee, mayina ambirimbiri apatsidwa mtsogoleri wathu kodi manyadzi alibe.
    Ndikudabwa nanu chifukwa ndalama zomwe mumatiuza zomwe amalandira bwana president, mmayiko ena ndi ndalama zomwe amalandira chartered accountant, nanga chomwe mumalimbikira ndi upulezident ndi chiyani?????? Malawi ali mumoto, kalanga ineeeeee

  2. king says:

    Mr Kanyama and your company get ready kill them,we don’t care about these shupit csos.

  3. charles says:

    BEAM is not malawi government , Beam as organisation it all rights as an organisation to access any welwishing donation from any body around the World, just as good as other foundations , Why you PP s make noise for yourself? Why cant you make Noise with some oine who is fleeing from your party are you crying pets? nonono nonono if you try to forfil one persons efforts which failed on 20 May then you are late too late ,infact very late , Hey listen if you wish bad events to some body it eventualy turn against you ,thats it mungoyenda yenda ati kuopa kuti anenedwa kuti .

  4. Jarsn Phiko says:

    Mwanenatu omalawi, koma mudziwe kuti ndarama ikalankhula chilungamo chimakhala chete. This is the bible quote. Kodi alipo munthu amene mutu wake siuyenda bwino amene amadzudzula mkazi wake akalakwa? zimatengelatu umunthu wobadwa nawo kwanu kuti unaleledwa bwanji kuti udziwe kuti mkazi wanga walakwitsa. Iweyo ngati unaleledwa banja lopanda mwambo wabwino siungadziwe kuti wina akuchita zolakwa, mwachitsanzo munthu amene amachokera banja lotukwana saonapo cholakwa kunva wina akutukwana. DPP ndiye inayambitsa Cashgate, nanga NACgate ingakhalenso nkhani yoti ingawapatse theng’eneng’e? Pitala sangalankhule ai, chifukwa 1. khoswe wakhala pa mkhate, kuti adzudzule mtsikana ngati amene uja ndiye kuti ziyenda ku bedi. 2. Mulhakho, tele nkuwadzudzula poti ndizathu zomwe? NIP, ndiye kotulutsila ndaramako kumeneko. Ndiye inu mumati atani mwana wa mwamuna, poti zikazungulila mseu wa zomba zifikabe ku Blantyre, kaya Zalewa zifika basi. This is what we chose as Malawians. Tidziwanso sitinati, zaka 5 sipano, tiyankhula mpaka kenako tileka osalankhulanso. TINKANENA ADATHELA MSIIZI. CHOSAVA ADACHIVIWIKA MMASAMBA. WOSAVA ADAVA NKHWANGWA ILI MMUTU.

  5. Mwanansena Alongenji says:

    Mwanansena akulonga: Baa Kanjila mwalemba zadidi but ‘not at all cost’. This term of ‘at all cost’ is far too misleading to us here, I mean the majority of Malawians. People have been going to extremes when their freedoms are not professionally checked. You know there are a few of you who understand ‘at all cost’ to have some limit, but there are a lot of us here who think ‘at all cost’ means no limit or allowing more chaos on top of chaos. Shee! mwandichimwitsa ndalonga pyazungu bi?

  6. PM says:

    People have so much loyalty to individual self-interests, political parties, tribes, regions at the expense of nationalism, such that it is difficult if not almost impossible now to mobilise for national cause across the divides unless things reach levels of desparation. This is sad for the advancement of a country

  7. ujeni says:

    People like the Malunga’s unfortunately are the ones who dine with Malawi government. Thugs find confort in wearing DPP colours, when genuine law abiding suffering Malawians want to expresss their dissatisfaction with government by demonstration, they are demonised and called all sorts of names by thugs from ruling party.

  8. Daniel says:

    1day is 1day they will pay the price

  9. NYIKA BOY says:

    VERY GOOD WORK.MALAWI NEEDS COMPLETE OVEHAUL.COMPLETE REVOLUTIONARY LEADERS AND PEOPLE.ORDINARY PEOPLE ON THE STREETS R DE PLAYGROUND BY POLITICIANS.ALL ANIMALS R EQUAL BUT SOME ANIMALS R MORE EQUAL THAN OTHERS.NOWANDER THAT BOOK BY GEORGE OWEL HAS NOT BEEN READ BY MALAWIANS PLS I RECOMEND THAT THIS BOOK BE USED AS AN ENGLISH LEADER AT SCHOOLS

  10. SORRY AND SAD WITH MALAWI ——- MALAWI AZINGO LILABE MPAKA KALA-KALE, ANTHU AKE ONSE OLAMULA MU OFFICE OSIYANASIYANA SAFUNA CHILUNGAMO, POPEZA NAO A MABA NAO NDALAMAZO

  11. chinganga says:

    you mean Malawi is failing to link Beauitiful Malawi with HIV and Aids? My holy foot! very sad. thats why you return money back to the donors.

  12. mizinya ya fake says:

    What do you expect from the gaffament of thievies; for the thievies and by the thievies

  13. brutsha says:

    What an enlightening article but Malawians, especially those enjoying the plunder of the public purse, are too dull, tribalistic and fraudulent to take up this free advice, dangerously so at the expense of national good.

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