Since he returned from his recent trip to New York, where, principally, he represented and spoke on behalf of us, all genuine Malawians, President (and Professor?) Arthur Peter, sorry, Peter Arthur Mutharika has been bashed, castigated, demonised, lambasted, lashed out, ridiculed, sworn at, and scorned by all manner of people from all manner of professions: academics, cartoonists, columnists, opposition party politicians, civil servants, drunkards, gays, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), non-governmental individuals (NGIs), tribalists, journalists, vendors, beggars, public servants, private servants, theologians, pastors, social media hounds, herbalists, voodoo prophets, atheists, ethicists, oncologists, and even epidemiologists.
However, we—Abiti Joyce Befu, AMAI (RTD), leader of our International Geographic Expedition, Sheikh Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD), Mzee Native Authority Mandela, and I, the Mohashoi—beg to differ and distance our good selves. Why? Although journalists have done a lot of good work in the past, on this sole day, this revelations day, they have failed to do their job.
Now, listen and listen very hard. Open your eyes and open them very hard. Clean your ears and clean them very hard. It is no longer news that Mutharika took a huge delegation to New York comprising professionals, shoppers, and sightseers, some of whom tumbled several times as they went up the aeroplane’s boarding steps; others had to be babysat all the way to New York because they were fidgety in their seats.
Listen. The President travelled a different route from the rest of the hand-clappers, party loyalists, party journalists, village headmen, and the papsya tonola. Mutharika used a jet to Dubai (and possibly beyond) while the handclappers and shoppers went through Johannesburg. That is the news. Journalists did not know this? Failed.
Also, the news is that at the so-called press conference at the Kamuzu Palace, in Lilongwe, President Mutharika, incited by his spokesperson, Gerald Violent, brandished a piece of paper purportedly containing a list of people that comprised the Malawi delegation. He said the list had more delegates; not 115 as the American Embassy was quoted to have revealed. Sadly, all the journalists ignored this revelation. No follow-up questions. No demand for the list to be published. Failed again.
Ironically, Mutharika urged the journalists to pay attention to what was being said. As it is emphasised in journalism school, journalists must pay attention to minute details, even slips of the tongue, because these reveal the information Gerald Violent and his bunch of State House miscommunicators and disinformers want this country not to know. Journalists cannot afford to be passengers and silent listeners at a press conference. Kudos President Mutharika.
Listen. Some people were irked that Mutharika banged his table, shouted at us the voters, and bragged like the Ngwazi Kamuzu Banda had nearly 40 years earlier, that he was US dollar millionaire who did not need our money. But, even that is not news to us. The news is that he told the journalists who insisted on him stopping hiring jets to fly his wife and villagemates around the world, that the plane was hired for only 11 hours (return) to Dubai. He challenged the press to, instead, talk about the jet his brother bought at US$22 million (currently MK12.1 billion), which the Pimples Party sold or hid somewhere in a hangar.
Well, some of us expected to hear what it costs to hire an executive jet from South Africa or Tanzania to Malawi (5 hours) and then to Dubai (11); not by what percent the cost was negotiated downwards. Clearly, 5.5 hours was not an honest hired flight time; rather 16 hours is closer to reality. So, Mutharika was right to urge journalists present there to pay attention to the facts in real time. Even to this issue, there was no follow-up questions. Failed.
This, to us, was also the best time for the journalists to ask the President why he and his administration are not interested in explaining how the 177 and 144 maize-shellers President (ka)Ngwazi Bingu wa Mutharika bought, using a US$41 million (currently MK22.5 billion) loan facility from an Indian bank are benefitting the country. Yet, we still talk about a Greenbelt agricultural approach to food insecurity. How do we dispose of the very assets that would turn around our misfortunes? How? Failed.
Some of this critical agricultural equipment or machinery was sold, distributed or given to friends by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Insecurity. No journalist, no politician, no farmer, has asked why the Plant and Vehicle Hire Organisation (PVHO), the only Malawi government institution with legal authority to board off government motor vehicles (tractor are motor vehicles; aren’t they?), was bypassed
President Mutharika was right. Journalists have failed Malawi. It is time they rose from slumber.
- The article appeared in the Weekend Nation