Last week, Minister of Information Tourism and Culture, Kondwani Nankhumwa, was in the news again. This time, he was complaining and accusing former President, Joyce Banda, of not taking leave of President Peter Mutharika, and not informing government when receiving International awards.
He said, as former President, Joyce Banda must follow a protocol (spelled out somewhere on some document known to Nankhumwa), which says former Presidents must take leave of current Presidents every time they want to make a trip abroad, and that they must appraise the current President with full itinerary of their engagements where they are travelling.
This, according to the Minister, would assist government to make proper budgetary allocations to offices of former Presidents, and, in the case like that of former President, Joyce Banda and also send representatives to witness some of the events that the former President attends. Mr. Nankhumwa, really?
The quickest and free advice to Minister Nankhumwa is to come off his obsession with Joyce Banda. It is seriously corroding what is left of his small integrity as a person, and embarrassing a Ministry, which is supposed to be peopled with professional communicators.
For starters, where is it stipulated that former Presidents must always take leave of the current President when travelling abroad, or receiving an award? Can the Minister please tell us which books of rules he is reading? What if a former President does not want to take leave of the current President for reasons that border on the personal? Would that mean they wouldn’t qualify for the award, or whatever they want to do? What if they are using their own personal resources like in the case of Joyce Banda?
It appears Minister Nankhumwa simply spews out what comes out of his head, especially when the issue has something to do with former President Joyce Banda. Remember the ‘we-have-handed-over-the Lutepo-footage-to-ACB’ issue? The Minister blatantly and brazenly lied to the whole nation that his Ministry had handed over to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) footage of meetings between Chief cashgate suspect Oswald Lutepo and former President Joyce Banda, when actually there was no such a thing.
It had to take the whole ACB Director, Lucas Kondowe, to diplomatically deny possession of any footage on the same, suggesting that maybe it is ‘stuck’ somewhere on its way to his office. Up until now, Nankhumwa has not said anything on the footage issue.
Joyce Banda boasts a comprehensive international profile earned as a result of her work with disadvantaged women and children, and other marginalized communities. She has been recognized with numerous International awards before for fighting hunger and malnutrition even before she became President of this country.
She has also been invited a numerous times to grace and speak at international forums, not just for the love of it, but because of what she has achieved as a person. Why is Nankhumwa getting agitated now? Is it becoming too much for him?
Minister Nankhumwa is behaving like a lone wolf who has dangerously veered from the rest of the pack. One wonders whether he is not pursuing a personal vendetta against the former President, because his latest accusation sounds very petty and way out of line and only borne out of malice and ill will.
The Ministry of information has a momentous task of ensuring that Malawians are on the same page with their government as it implements its policies to move this country out of the fangs of poverty and despondency. It calls for well-crafted out messages across multiple platforms and touch points to ensure buy-out of government policies by the general public and cooperating partners.
This ought to be what the Ministry of Information, Tourism and Culture should be doing, under the leadership of its Minister. It is no time for pathetic partisan political propaganda that doesn’t mean anything.
There are information officers in almost all the districts in the country attached to the Ministry of Information who gather information about what Malawians are generally thinking, and are aware of the real issues that are currently at the heart of ordinary people.
One is pretty sure that the issue of Joyce Banda’s taking leave of President Mutharika to receive international awards is not one of them. The former President is currently abroad and Nankhumwa would do better to concentrate on local issues such as why does he think Malawi, with the lowest GDP and per capita income in the world, is still not the poorest country in the world.
These are the issues government is supposed to craft messages around and properly communicate if it desires to move with the pulse of the public. Malawians are aware that Nankhumwa’s agenda is to deflect attention from the real issues that currently jinx President Mutharika and his DPP government. Otherwise, the Information Minister’s thoughtless gobbledygook only makes him sound like a troublesome distant cousin…
- Hastings Kandoje is a political, social and economic commentator. He writes for Nyasa Times in his personal capacity