Let me first confess that I like the writing of the Muckraker, Raphael Tenthani. He is a highly gifted writer, and I consider him one of our very best. Unfortunately, it is clear that he has earned himself a displeased audience which Tenthani himself exposed in the Muckraking of September 28; he simply referred to them as “President Peter Mutharika’s apologists.” Tenthani asserted that these people, accuse him of being a “Fault –finder.”
But going by the arguments he raised to defend his spirited ‘fault-finding mission’ Tenthani got it all wrong on who really is a fault-finder, and misunderstood his accusers. As a result, he defended himself in the wrong way and context. He even used the wrong examples, to justify his cause and that was a huge mistake.
To make myself clear, let me share with you the globally accepted definitions which also draw the rightful contexts within which the term can be understood or used. The Oxford Dictionary has two meanings of fault-finding, which are; 1. continual criticism typically concerning trivial things, 2. the investigation of the cause of a malfunctioning in machinery especially electronic equipment.
Now while defending his fault-finding mission, Tenthani gave the example of a motor vehicle mechanic as a fault-finder which is very true as it fits perfectly well, in the second definition, unfortunately anyone can tell that if all someone accused him, they definitely did not accuse him of ‘investigating causes of malfunctioning in electronic equipments’ as that does not fit in the context. Therefore, the example of a motor vehicle mechanic to defend fault-find was out of the context and wrong because his accuser did not mean fault-finder in that sense.
This leaves us with the first definition which makes perfect sense, because if the so called apologists of Mutharika were to accuse the muckraker of fault-finding, they would definitely accuse him of ‘continual criticism on trivial things’ to do with the President.
Unfortunately for the Muckraker, this definition of fault-finding does not define the heroic and patriotic efforts of the statesman, Chakufwa Chihana and the Catholic Bishops that led the democratic struggle in 1992, which he referred to in his article, because these people were not ‘continuously criticising’ Dr Banda, the dictator ‘on trivial things.’ It was therefore, wrong and demeaning to describe these great men and martyrs as fault-finders. And they did not ransom our democracy by fault-finding. Men and women of Malawi that have fought for the safeguard of our democracy and its institutions and prevailed have had causes of national interests, not mere ‘continuous criticisms on trivial things.’ they cannot be called fault-finders.
Now, this takes us to my last and very important point, where the Muckraker in his misunderstood and wrongly contextualized meaning of fault-finding, called the Media a fault-finder. I understand and yet again respect the fact that Tenthani is a renowned member of the media fraternity in Malawi with an international repute, but that again is the reason he should have known better.
In a democracy, the media functions as a watchdog among its other essential roles. As a watchdog, the media keeps government and its institutions under strict surveillance, and expose the truth behind any assertions made by government, and ensure that public officers including the president are held accountable for their actions. And this very important role does not reduce the media to a mere fault-finder, as it is one of the fundamental determinants of a successful democracy. As a watchdog, the media does not engage in ‘continuous criticism on trivial things.’
And last on the Media, it is important to appreciate that the Media has the responsibility to inform and educate the public. To do this, members of the Media, especially journalist like Tenthani must ensure that they impart strictly accurate information in a balanced and objective manner as possible so that the people can make informed and intelligent decisions and choices. Balanced writing and objectivity of journalists determine the level of independence of the Media from political influence either by government or even the opposition.
Finally, Mr Tenthani, you are such a great talent to waste on mere fault-finding. Malawi needs more than fault-finders to sort out the current economic and political dilemmas. Fault-finding does not help anybody, because constant fault finding become personal attacks. Even in any type of relationship, marriage, courtship or even work related relationships, if one partner or colleague continuously find faults in the other, and has no time to compliment on efforts, and appreciate the good in others, the relationship is doomed to fail. Therefore, fault-finding is destructive and therefore not important to civilization, and not important to democracy, unless by fault-finders we mean motor vehicle mechanics.