Mphwiyo’s Malawi media glory …Off the wall of Rodgers Siula

This article seeks to examine how Malawi’s former Budget Director Paul Mphwiyo is represented in the media, specifically the Nation newspaper, as well as ideologies attached to such representations with relevant examples.

Mphwiyo surrounded by police officers at the court

Mphwiyo surrounded by police officers at the court

Representation is referred to as the process through which words and images stand in for ideas, individuals, social groups and other categories. Representations have the power to select, arrange and prioritize certain assumptions and ideas about different kinds of people,   bringing some to the fore, dramatizing and idealizing or demonizing them, while casting others into the social margins, so that they have little active public presence or only a narrow and negative public image (Bob Franklin et al 2005:233).

Therefore, it could be argued that the representation is constructed with a set of ideas and values that reflect the producer’s intent or indeed intended meaning.

Ideology is a difficult – but important – concept to grasp. Simply put, it is the ideas behind a media text, the secret (or sometimes not-so secret) agenda of its producers. It is important to be able to identify the different ideological discourses that may be present in even an apparently simple photograph (

Whilst content analysis and semiotics may shed light on media content, Marxist theory highlights the material conditions of media production and reception. Because of the distribution of power in society, some versions of reality have more influence than others (

According to the Nation of 25th July 2013, ‘Introducing Paul Mphwiyo, New Budget Director’ the publication glorifies and underlines how prestigious Mphwiyo is, thereby legitimizing his greatness as a star.

‘At only 37, Ivy League educated Paul Mphwiyo is the new Budget Director, a cross-cutting job that puts him not only at the nexus of the fiscus, but also gives him the responsibility of providing direction to the Malawi economy. He is not there by mistake… Mphwiyo brings unique core skills to the job that is as critical to the country’s economic growth as it is controversial’ (Nation: 25th July, 2013).

The use of adjectives like ‘Ivy League’, ‘He is not there by mistake’, ‘brings unique core skills’ do not only push for a legitimized ideology around the class of Mphwiyo, but also underline that he as exceptional elite person thereby championing Bob Franklin et al argument that representations have the power to select, arrange and prioritize certain assumptions and ideas about different kinds of people,   bringing some to the fore.

In fundamentalist Marxism, ideology is ‘false consciousness’, which results from the emulation of the dominant ideology by those whose interests it does not reflect. From this perspective the mass media disseminate the dominant ideology: the values of the class which owns and controls the media (Curran et al. 1982: 26)

Looking at this context, it definitely collaborates with what other scholars say that media texts always reflect certain values or ideologies though sometimes we may not be aware of this. (

In the aftermath of the shooting of Mphwiyo, the publication carried a story ‘Mphwiyo received death threats’ and an editorial ‘Malawi needs the likes of Mphwiyo’ in the same edition.

According to the story “during his two months as budget director, Mphwiyo has also cracked down on dubious government contracts and payments that were conduit for siphoning out billions of taxpayers’ money but which the Ivy League trained economist has largely cancelled… Mphwiyo also introduced tough measures of controlling expenditure during his two months’ as budget chief” (Nation : 15th September 2013).

Apart from legitimation, another strategy used to promote the ‘Mphwiyo legacy’ ideology in the Nation is charismatic ground. Thus, the paper is deliberately appealing to the exceptional character of an individual, in this case, Mphwiyo.

In its editorial ‘Malawi needs the likes of Mphwiyo’, the paper colourfully writes that ‘we take pride in the necessary changes Mphwiyo has brought to the public finance and economic management architecture… Here is a man who wants to make a difference after noting the rot in the system and the implications such dirt has had on the country’s resources and its macro economy. As citizens, we need technocrats such as Mphwiyo to take the country forward –tough, passionate and courageous public servants who love their country enough to put their necks on the line. Mphwiyo deserves the support of every Malawian of goodwill’ (Nation: 15th September 2013).

Perhaps this representation of Mphwiyo, portraying him as a champion pushes an ideology largely. In Louis Althusser’s sense, ideology represents individuals’ relationship to reality, and this relationship is both real and imaginary. Real; because it’s the concrete condition in which individuals live. Imaginery; because it prevents the individuals from recognizing the real nature of the relations which govern their existence (Indian Philosophical Quarterly 1995: 348)

Therefore, much as the Nation could be arguably setting an agenda as regards the ‘super manship’ of Mphwiyo, the publication paid a blind eye to investigating the whole matter in abid to establish facts.

In December 2013, the paper carried a story ‘Mphwiyo Outwits PAC’ which apparently highlighted how smart Mphwiyo was in answering questions about his shooting before the Public Appointments Committee of the Malawi Parliament.

‘During the long-awaited session, Mphwiyo successfully parried away questions about his wealth and links to suspects in his shooting… dressed in a dark suit and looking full of life… his concluding remarks met with applause from some committee members’ (Nation: 11th December, 2013).

These texts consistently glorify Mphwiyo as an individual thereby giving out preferential representation. Therefore, ideology is a word that is highly thought of where media is concerned. Radio, news, and film all use ideology to persuade viewers and listeners.

Having looked at and analysed the Nation newspapers’ content about its coverage and representation of Mphwiyo, it can be argued the media have the power to create, destroy, and persuade; even dictate one’s own thinking. Nevertheless, news material should not attribute it’s weight to opinion other than facts.

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19 thoughts on “Mphwiyo’s Malawi media glory …Off the wall of Rodgers Siula”

  1. Wachiweni Wani says:

    Zamkutu Mukuwanyengerera Chani Akubawa Omwe Akuzunzitsa Miyoyo Ya A Malawi Where Is Law Enforcement And Judiciary Agalu Inu

  2. Bonongwe says:

    That’s what Maffias do. They perform …….. and try to escape but people still know.

    You can run fast but cannot hide. Your cautious will kill you.

  3. sinoya says:

    Ndilibe chonena

  4. Masoapatali says:

    Well the government of Malawi paid The Times news group in millions of taxi payers money just to praise APM and hide his evident incompetency. It is no more a hidden secrete that Mphwiyo used the same approach and paid a someone handsomely at Nation Publications to do the same job. I mean the guy can blow millions in just a single night on gambling. What can stop him from buying someone seeking to be palm oiled to some work for him in the media? He is the only government official whose appointment was met with such pomp, sweet publications in his name from The Nation followed up. That’s the more reason I stopped buying this shit of a Newspaper for I knew the crook in Paul Mphwiyo quite well then. What a shame to The Nation

  5. David Nyirenda says:

    So far I have attended almost court sessions about his shooting and I wish all readers that Paul is not an honest person. He has never been honest and I do not think he will.

    He told the Parliamentary Committee that he thought he had been shot because he was strict with expenditure control and was fighting corruption. According to evidence in court in July 2015 soon after he was appointed Budget Director government expenditure rose from Mk40billion to Mk55billion per month. In August 2015 the expenditure rose to Mk75billion.

    When expenditure returns were prepared and submitted he he vehemently challenged the report. After a week in a meeting at RBM after he was grilled he acknowledged why there was over expenditure.

    He wrote three statements about his shooting at different dates and he never mentioned who had shot him. It is very surprising that he told the court that he had seen Ralph together with certain men he could not identify at time of shooting.

    He also told the the Parliament committee that he was fighting corruption and had declared his assets upon appointed budget director. While we expect a budget director to be a man of high integrity and principles it was not his job to fight corruption. I think it is the job of ACB.

    He also lied about his declared assets. In fact the ACB was investigating him and had demanded a list of his assets.

    It is evidence of Mr Makande that the very Paul told him while in police cell that it was the scheme of Bophani the then DIG to implicate Ralph in his shooting and he was then regretting.

    I am sure the journalists at Nation Newspaper might have received something from Paul to exault him like this. The guy was on the run after he had mismanaged government funds and only reappeared 12 days after the of death of Bingu.

  6. Mbizi says:

    Excellent intellectual article. Very educative to a lay person like me. But I expected a very strong conclusion like how contrast the ideologies & representations of Nation newspaper to Mphwiyo and how is the newspaper relates itself now after learning the actual facts of Mphwiyo

  7. Guantanamo says:

    Script not for an average online reader. Ukuyenera kukhala wophunzira bwino kuti umvetse nkhani iyi

  8. the Nation says:

    mphuno salota akulu akulu

  9. Mbizi says:

    Excellent intellectual article, very factual and educative to a lay person like me. But I expected a strong conclusion like what Mphwiyo is compared to ideologies and representations of Nation newspaper and how is he represented now after knowing the real facts who Mphwiyo is

  10. Zoona says:

    Osalephera ku Nation News paper wina ali pa payroll ya mphwiyo ndipo akudya za Mphwiyo. Glory from media never never happen for free. Mr Ephraim Munthali what can you comment on this

  11. Kanu. Nguni says:

    Why is mphwiyo.treated as a VIP when he is a criminal and a thief?

  12. Yeleyi Yakogoya says:

    The simple truth is that the media in Malawi is largely UNPROFFESSIONAL!!!!. Often times they write stories without taming their ill emotions on the subject matter. Eventully they dump the crap on their readers. The sad part of it is that they get away with it. There are alot of examples we can mention here.
    1. I dont understand y the Malawi Media has not been able to get to the botton of the tragic shooting of 20 ppo on July 20/21. The media portrays the image that executive was paupable because it was bent at stiffling freedoms of ppo to demonstrate- a myoipic and dangerous misrepresentation of facts because everyone knows that the then leadership of the demos still live to this day. With all due respect, the majority of victims were shot at during shop break-ins. the media fails to address this and advances the view that these were myrtrs. Does anyone understand the danger here?

    The fight to end the autocratic rule of Dr. Kamuzu Banda and the call for multiparty democracy was championed by a few brave Malawians but the final blow was unleashed by the Catholic Bishops headed by late Arch Bishop James Chiona through the 1992 Pastoral Letter. Now if I can ask does the media in Malawi recognise this in their writings? Surely no!!! The ppo who take credit are those that make noise the most.

    In Malawi governments have taken blame for the lack of development in the last 50 years. Everyone blames govt. that has been the story for decades. Now what do our media houses do- of course join the bandwagon and sing the ill concieved song that government is incubator of all the ppo’s sufferings. Again this is glossly missleading. Why not write abt the ppo’s laziness, parents’ irrisponsibility over their children, why not rebuke high fertility rates, how abt entreprenurial culture. The stories we read are one sided and the arguments are monotonous- govt this govt that.

    The media goofs and they dont learn lessons. I have in mind the reporting on the ill fated July 20 protests. Listening to reporting one would easily have mistaken them for a football match. That was the time I came to the conclusion that he majority of what we call journalists in Malawi are a big joke.

  13. chimboro says:

    Even in America you can not find youthful to hold high posts

  14. Shrek says:

    Beautifully articulated. The Nation, for all its merits, at times in 2013 peddled opinion as news often so discomforting I could vomit in my mouth just reading it.

    It was rumored that this prestigious paper were about to file for bankruptcy under JB (arguably Mphwiyo’s greatest champion) when the ruling PP stepped in to virtually write off this enormous debt in taxes, It is not known whether the taxes were paid or merely wiped clean. It is rumored that in exchange, no negative stories were to be written about PP with particular emphasis on demonizing and belittling APM particularly. A review of the paper in 2013 should give credence to this claim. The Nation likely does not believe this BS written about Mphwiyo in their own paper as they have had a good record for exceptional journalism in the past. Credence should be given to the alleged rumor as this Mphwiyo nonsense only began appearing upon his appointment.

  15. Zidura Ntengo Undigwere says:

    Expose “The Nation” for crass partisanship; because that is what it is.
    The Paper and other individuals succumbed to hero worshiping. Not smart, when the media should stick to reporting the facts, with zero or minimal editorializing in the articles.
    And glorifying Phwiyo’s ivy league credentials was overkill and inappropriate; because what really mattered is what he was capable of doing with his education. Not the past, so much. Just shows how susceptible we all are to corruption, especially of the money form. And greed.
    “The Nation” ought to be ashamed of their reporting; but I doubt if they will learn anything from this. Teaching moment, anyone?

  16. Nenani Pidoh says:

    So many quotes Rodgers, this makes your article not attractive to read. The readers are even not sure if the concluding part is your own common sense or its the ally of Mphwiyo himself. Next time try to play your part as a dynamic journalist, taking all words to the book of your brain otherwise the whole of your article is a copy-cat and does not attract attention at all…

  17. Chilu says:

    Great piece sir. I remember reading the first article on Mphwiyo in the said newspaper before cashgate and he was really depicted as the super marvelous, intelligent economist, and I was motivated with the article. but now I know that probably the writer was a freind who was trying to convince the masses on the appointment. the media is too powerful indeed.

    I see how the media paints bad about China, especially western media, and they have convince most of us to believe that WEST has all the good thing and CHina has all the fake things. But wait a minute, leaving in this land of China has taught me how great this country is. infact all people from the world are coming to learn here. pamene ife western media inatinamiza and all we want is western. Lets grow up and realise how evil the media is

  18. 2016 welcome says:

    Tidaimbira mfiti manja.

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