Ntata: To speak or not to speak?

In order to govern a country with excellence and lead it to economic prosperity, leaders need to be open minded. From my experience working in government, I have come to the conclusion that this is the most difficult attribute to have when one is governing.



In government, perceptions easily become blurred by prejudice and presumption. I once worked in government, so I am speaking from experience. Our governance framework has made it so easy to automatically go into the siege mentality e verytime someone criticises it.

The result is that the leadership closes its ears to relevant and useful advice because praise singers and party loyalists brand any change agent an enemy of the state. Instead of considering the soundness of the message, they attack the character of the messenger.

With our country in retrogression 50 years after independence, I strongly submit that the fear of being considered an enemy of the state and being castigated physically and in the media has stopped many from becoming the change agents that our governance framework, which still operates very much like a one party state, desperately needs.

Of course being a change agent is not for the faint hearted. Free money is given to anyone with a pen or smart phone to attack and assassinate the character of anyone who dares to point out where the government is going wrong. But if we love Malawi and want it to truly develope and get out of this 19th century thinking she is stuck in, we as Malawians must become change agents and accept gladly the risks that come with that choice.

By definition, change agents are ‘the messenger’ – and one thing change agents can be certain of is that as messengers, shots will be fired at them.

‘Shooting the messenger’ is considered a subdivision of an ad hominem attack, which is: insulting or belittling one’s opponent in order to attack his claim or invalidate his argument, but can also involve pointing out true character flaws or actions that are irrelevant to the opponent’s argument. This is logically fallacious because it relates to the opponent’s personal character, which has nothing to do with the logical merit of the opponent’s argument.

When inevitably you have become the target of hostility, remember that it is your message, not you personally, that the person or group is reacting to. When people attack the person delivering the message instead of debating the issue raised by their message, they are reacting to someone placing them in a state of cognitive dissonance.

Refuse to make yourself the issue. Your goal is to help the country move forward, not justify your character or your past; or defend motivations presumptively and prejudicially imputed to you. If you decide to talk about governance and the intolerance of those you criticise, you must be prepared to demonstrate that you are not just speaking but that you, yourself, are tolerant of those that speak spitefully about you.

Truth is truth regardless of who speaks it. And in this country, there are truths that need to be spoken by someone. Anyone. The suspicious MSB sale, the totally empty Public Service Reforms and the presidential puppetry are but just a few examples.

It is a failure of good governance to refuse to take criticism or to quickly brand all that point out issues as enemies of the state.

As a writer and a governance scholar, I have neither the time nor the inclination to engage in a character debate or justify myself and my motives to individuals who let their presumption and petty prejudices guide their thinking. The fact that apparently well respected journalists can waste their time writing nothing but character assassination articles instead of debating these important national issues is a clear testimony to our country’s intellectual bankruptcy.

I discuss governance not because I believe my character is angelic, but because having studied governance and worked in government, I have the advantage of understanding that when in government, it is easy for myopia and complacency to set in, accompanied by the feeling that the government can do no wrong. I also know that fear of losing their jobs or being branded as disloyal traitors prevents many from speaking out about obvious wrongs.

My fellow Malawians, criticizing government and speaking on issues that matter is not about having previously teamed up in the trenches with anyone. It is about having the courage and the presence of mind to speak out. Period.

  • The author is a barrister of Middle Temple, governance specialist and author of Trappings of Power: Political Leadership in Africa.
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43 thoughts on “Ntata: To speak or not to speak?”

  1. GOGO says:

    Uku sikuchenjer mr Ntata Ndale ufunse a Sam Mpasu

  2. My salute Mr Z. Allan Ntata. You have proved to be a hard nut to crush by these sunday journalists that is why instead of debating issues raised they gang for attacks on personality. Do not lose your sleep they are on their payrol simply for character assasination. You are very sound and clear here that you were in government during Bingu’s time and it was difficult to pull a trigger against oneself for the sake of job. This time he is able to point out what is wrong. People are forgetting that we had good judgement in Mavuto Bamusi but just after being given that post in government,now has no conscience. Really we have journalists with brain degeneration here who can stoop so low only to be used as political condoms. The given K50,000 are now in their circulatory system. Crush the message please and not him who has carried the message.

  3. point blank says:

    Ntata vindicated on MSB sale. I thought you were talking out of anger.

  4. abinte says:

    where were you when we needed pple of that cariba.u wea enjoyin wit bingu.iweyo ndi amene umamupatsa bingu makani.ndiwe zoba kwambiri.

  5. Lt. FRAZER CHAKHAZA (RTD) says:

    I have now get accustomed to Z. Allan Ntata’s articles and his critics but one thing I strongly agree with him what he writes in his articles is that it is true that in Malawi anyone criticizing the government is labeled an enemy of government. Ntata is not criticizing government as an individual or a group of individual personalities NO. What he is critical of is the failure by government to change the way it runs or governs this country. We are talking of governance issues here and polices. It’s not about Peter Mutharika, George Chaponda, Nankhumwa, Kasaila or Kaliati no it is about government’s failures period. Let’s not just toil by party line we need to critically analyze the situation on the ground. Of course some Malawians especially DPP cohorts are finding it hard to swallow what Ntata is saying because he, Ntata failed to criticize late Bingu wa Mutharika when he was his advisor on constitutional and governance issues. Perhaps my advice to Ntata is to tell us why he could not criticize Bingu while he was in government then Malawians will take him seriously otherwise people will still label him as frustrated man. All in all you are bringing issues that should be debated without fear.

  6. Mvemvemve says:

    Those who have ears let them hear and those with eyes let them see what the Prophet Z Ntata says!
    Vutodi ndi lakuti ali m’boma , olamula saona choipa ndipo safuna kuwuzidwa zoipa zina zili zonse! Abale APM ndi munthu, si Mulungu akalakwitsa tizimuuza ndithu osaopa!!

  7. achewa says:

    those who have got a chance to write something please do so so that others can learn from you ,they can know the truth.forget about poeple whose job is just to clap hands at party functions so that they get something instead of working

  8. Malawi Wake Up says:

    Bingu was worse and arrogant and yet u never criticised him. You were caught unawares eating honey and drinking milk and suddenly you took off. You never waited to send off the hand that was feeding you. Now I guess this is part of your Phd assignment just to see you thru to your graduation. I cannot take your articles seriously. Envy, anger, jealousy,resentiment,greediness that what I see from your writing.

  9. Chilungamo ndi Mtendere says:

    Nkhani yavuta ndiyoti akulu awa anabwezedwa ku state house nothing else Amalawi tisamale tizawombera mfiti mmanja.

  10. Balamanthu says:

    The point has been made by Ntata.Lets discuss ideas and whether they are logical or not or whether they do make sense.Because our thinking is so parochial and captured by what we are offered by our parties or where we do belong, we usually fall into the trap of examining persons that have originated any ideas if they go against the status quo rather than determine whether the floated ideas make sense.This is why educated as some people may claim, it is not possible to have an intelligent discussion with most of us because we view issues from a prejudiced personality perspective rather than the logic and soundness of issues themselves.It is a long journey but Allan has started it.There needs to be a serious mind shift in the way we think and how we apply ourselves to criticims and conrary views.

  11. Chingaipe says:

    Mr. Ntata, let me give my two penny’s worth of comment on what you have said. Firstly, you are quite right. Malawi has developed a siege mentality. Those who have tasted the trappings of power are under siege. They do not see themselves as ordinary people anymore. They are the gods, so to speak. So when one, like you very ably do, point out that time might come when they are to account for their conduct, they get all defensive and even abusive. But as you rightly said, continue to point out what is ill about our governance and processes. By so doing we shall continue to expand our territories, figuratively speaking! My humble advice is that YOU should continue, and I am happy to see that you are! The bafoonery that has gripped this government is daunting to say the least. One thing though, I think Mutharika should be commended for behaving “presidential”. I say this because for the first time since Dr.Banda left office, he has NOT behaved like the District Chairman equivalents we had in Muluzi, Bingu Mutharika and Joyce Banda who responded to each and everything,thereby relegating ALL ministers to mere handclappers! But all things said, thank you Mr. Ntata, the country owes a great deal to you and Mr. Tenthani. Please keep it up and do not be discouraged by the often idiotic comments that are either posted on this page, or the hired mercenaries who attack you person and not the issues you raise. May the grace of God continue to guide every tittle that you write!

  12. john says:

    Kodi Ntata osakhala ngati professional civil servants who once held powerful positions at State House and they don’t talk like you do?

  13. Plee says:

    Iyaaa! Daily nkhani idzikhala ya mtata basi? Mxiiii

  14. Viva says:

    You have a point… Wakumva wamva… The rest might not get yr point.. They have nothing concrete to say.. They dont even know how to hold an argument.. Azingokutukanani basi.. Bt dont stop.. Am listening… Forget the rest.. Forget the bootlickers…

  15. Jimbo says:

    An excellent article! Sadly those in government are not there to work for the betterment of the country but to wield power, receive ulemu and line their own, their relatives and their close supporters’ pockets. Once in power those people ignore all advice, positive suggestions, criticisms, etc. and set about ploughing their own furrow, which is totally unrelated to improving the country and moving it forward. They are assisted in this by the majority of the population who are far too busy struggling with their own survival to have any interest in what their leaders do or don’t get up to. There seems to be no hope of any improvement in the foreseeable future. A government of national unity is the only answer, but what are the chances of that? It seems that Malawi’s politicians are only interested in getting their noses in the trough for their own personal benefit.

    1. Old Eyes says:

      Government of National Unity or strong Decentralization aka Federalism

  16. Tim Masamba says:

    Ok let’s give this young man a chance, he has changed and he is “born again”. The question still remains who are you fooling?

  17. Patricia says:

    This is a true analysis of what is happening in our country. It is not unusual for any woman like myself to be called Hule when ever I raise issues affecting our lives. Ntata labelled Mr. Frustrated can attest to the same. We need reality check in this country. Our government leaders lack the balls to hold the bull by the neck. Our economy is in tatters and I see no sustainable policies in place to resuscitate it. Yet at the same time we see the hired stooges with our tax money writing nonsense praising and telling us every move the president makes. I would like to believe that action speaks louder than words. What our country needs are actions not words. We need policies that will address the forex shortage, unemployment and the weakening security in the country. There has to be mitigating factors in place to alleviate the suffering of many.

  18. King says:

    Keep it up mtata!

  19. Kape Ntata says:

    This man is stupid, I wonder why Bingu had to pick him in the first place . I suppose Bingu is regretting where ever he is

  20. My fellow malawians mtata is a candle lit in the darkness of poorminded.look carefully he was with the president he knew what to breif us.who are u just full of unsoundmind moreover 100kl away from the president.”bravo mtata bravo malawi omba!!

  21. My fellow malawians mtata is a candle lit in the darkness of poorminded.look carefully he was with the president he knew what to breif us.who are u just full of unsoundmind moreover 100kl away from the president

  22. Wa BB says:

    Kodi iwe kape, bwanji sunamveke mawu nthawi ya ngwazi jnr?

  23. human says:

    Odi uko! mwayambano kubowa

  24. Medson Lima says:

    Ndiyetu ayamba kukusakani, nanga ngati ndinudi dolo mukubisaliranji? Che Ntata mwaishosha, mulimbenazo !

  25. utawasala says:

    Malawians are backwards issues of importance are taken simply because of this we will always be behind time. If Malawians were brave enough this country would have been developed more than many African countries. Ntata the time you were in the then DPP government I new that you were there just for money not on the true of your self because what you were displaying was cheap politics and that delayed Malawi to go forward. I welcome your coming back so that together we can take Malawi to another level. This is our time to clean Malawi, the Chihanas did their part and we have to do our pat also.

  26. Mkango says:

    Sounds like someone has been speaking to a psychiatrist. And we all know how badly this ”barrister of Middle Temple” is going to need a shrink very soon. Character assasination? Ha! Ntata you haven’t seen anything yet.

  27. Kenkkk says:

    Oh welcome back man!!! We thought these dpp misfit guys have managed to catch up with you and as usual handed big envelope to you to stop exposing their dirty schemes.

    Well said ntata, the message is very clear and that is what malawi needs regardless of his source of the message. Those vying for the messenger rather than the message wish malawi no good. Nobody is sinless, so you dpp zealots and corrupted minds listen to the message so that malawi can move forward and develop.

  28. DAVID KAMBILI says:

    Makes sense to me.Learn to understand the message and disregard the messenger!

  29. Chatonda Mtika says:

    I meant to say “it would be disingenuous for the author not TO EXPECT PEOPLE …”. The capitalized words are missing from the text.

  30. maya says:

    a Ntata mwasowa zochita mungotayapo nthawi yanu pachabe pangani zoti zikuthandizeni

  31. Chatonda Mtika says:

    Well articulated article. I am glad that the author is obliquely acknowledging his character shortfalls. While it is true that truth is truth irrespective of the character of the person who speaks it, I think it is disingenuous for the author not to be skeptical of utterances by individuals of suspect reputations. If we did that, I’m sure the author will be the first one to admit that we would be derelict of our responsibilities as citizens. What the author is articulating is important. It is good that he is confirming what many people have suspected all along. However, rather than blame people for being skeptical, a simple mea culpa would go a long way towards eliciting people’s sympathies which might eventually lead to some movement in the direction of correcting the issues being highlighted. After all, the author wants to be a change agent.

  32. Shawa says:

    Mr legal advisor…can u stil remind malawians when u wer a legal advisor.

    Wher were in Bingus time to call urself a CHANGER.

  33. Let me agree with Ntata that today’s Malawians are not the same people as they used to be in 19th century.Those old days,Ntata’s opinion could be much valid with much enriched credibility.

    But today,Mmmmmh!Im ch sorry Mr Ntata.No one would want to listen to your attention seeking passage!

  34. chatonda says:

    Awanso mabvuto ndiye wanyanya kulira. What exactly does he wants?

  35. MANYUCHI says:

    rantings of a sub-human primate. he who knows not that he knows not is a fool-shun him.

  36. Dungulinya says:

    By God. Why did I waste time reading this!?

  37. Cocoon says:

    Koma Ntanta achimwene ndiye mukulira zedi,, azanu akumanani mpando onona? Muzipanga za chilungamo kuno kunja zinthu zimatembenuka! mwati eeeee DPP aba mavoti tiyeni nazo.

  38. Kes says:

    Oh god! I feel like I have just been violated, I have just wasted 5 minutes of my life reading and trying to make sense of this nonsense Ntata has just written, what I complete waste of time. Nyasatimes please stop giving this attention seeker a platform to sprout his incoherent nonsense.

  39. Christopher says:

    Akulu simukukamba zamzelu inu. With your long scrriptures, there is nosense that we get. All we know is you are condeming the current leadership because it refused working with you. I said Does this mean you cant do something in the absence of working close to government? Who told you the government can not run without Ntata’s name in it? AAAAA amangwetu ipysani mtima zemzeni. Takambani zomupanga blame Zuma ndi zenofobia apa!

  40. Kavuluvulu says:

    NTATA,zimenezo waziwa liti ?

  41. Kokotowa says:

    Yeah! But when one turns himself into a “change agent” because he has been left out of the gravy train then we have serious problems with it!

  42. Bauleni says:

    Another lunatic who fits in every aspect to be confined in the corridors of mental hospital Zomba

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