If there is a minister who is reducing himself to a laughing stock, it is Minister of Information and Civic Education Mark Botomani. He issues press statements that contains half-truths, little sense or not convincing at all. At best he likes politicking and scoring cheap political points at the slightest opportunity. He waits or looks for anything he does not like about the opposition and then attack.
His latest salvo to discourage the opposition from being involved in the disseminating information about coronavirus can best be described as political much as he has accused the opposition of politicising the issue.
And who told him that the opposition would disseminate wrong information? And why is it inappropriate for groups (UTM and MCP) to involve themselves in coronavirus message development and dissemination without any orientation by the Ministry of Health? And why should the Ministry of Health, which has been very slow at giving out information, first orient organisations to disseminate information?
The Minister should be told in blunt language that no one has a monopoly of disseminating information about coronavirus. In case he is not aware, someone should tell him that information about coronavirus is available everywhere and it is disseminated by different groups of people. They range from government, media, musicians to NGOs. And the information is also freely available on other platforms like YouTube, internet, WhatsApp groups, World Health Organisation website and other specialised organisations. And there has been no contradiction in the messages disseminated.
One does not require any orientation from anyone, let alone from Ministry of Health to pass on information to the people. The information about the signs of the disease, how it is spread and can be prevented has been circulating on the internet, television stations, WhatsApp and other platforms long before the government in Malawi started talking about it. In fact Malawi has lagged behind in giving out information. In many countries, Presidents and Ministers of Health have been in the forefront of fighting the virus as early as February.
Compare this to Malawi. Neither President Mutharika nor Minister of Health has ever called for a press conference to inform the nation about the disease. Mutharika only appeared on television on 19 March to announce the measures to contain the virus. Everyone was asking “where was the president all this time this time to speak on the disease”
The fight against coronavirus is not a monopoly of government. Everyone has a role to play from the opposition, government, NGOs, media to the parents. This is why even in the homes parents are telling their children to wash their hands and stay indoors.
It is unfortunate that the whole minister can issue a press release just to discourage other organisations from disseminating the information about the disease when it is freely available and other institutions are encouraging everyone to pass on the information to their groups.
If anything the minister should be encouraging all Malawians (including opposition political parties) to disseminate the information to as many people as possible so that everyone knows about the disease. By discouraging the opposition from sensitising their supporters the Minister is giving the impression that coronavirus is owned by the government and that no one else should give out the information other than government itself. Is coronavirus a baby of the government? Why is it owning it as if it is the government or DPP that manufactured it?
And then there is a group of party loyalists masquerading as practicing doctors and nurses, and is urging UTM and MCP to respect their profession. Reading through the press release one tell that it is a just a bunch of submissive people being used by DPP in cheap propaganda. Who said for someone to give information about the disease one has to be trained?