Of the growling State House statement against Malawi media

Learned people and respected analysts have commented on last week’s press statement issued by President Bingu wa Mutharika but signed by one former broadcaster, Albert Mungomo, now State House publicist.

They have perfectly done the deserved job and the world has read and saluted all. But as an aggrieved person allow me to just say a little on through this respected forum.

Though I already know, the statement has now punched in me a confirmation that in Mutharika there is no love for democracy. As is his usual practice, Mutharika continues using his boys to do it for him so he does not take any responsibility, though we know he edits them before they are issued.

But let’s look at it from the bright side: it shows he is beginning to get the message. He does read our publications, and it is getting to him. So let’s keep working for more pressure on the state house to begin behaving in a democratic fashion.

Mungomo: issued the statement

The principle of democracy is that nobody is above the law. That goes for him as much as for anyone else in the country. The constitution clearly stipulates how the country is supposed to be run, the president is required to swear to defend and uphold the same. Which he did.

I learned that democracy is a Greek word meaning people for demos and ruling for kratoo. Democracy thus means the people ruling. Not some president or who ever, ruling. The people are ruling. We voted on a constitution back in 1993 and approved it. The constitution is what the country has to live by. The constitution is the highest authority, much higher than anyone including the parliament.

The constitution stipulates that the president serves the people. The president is the servant, the people are the bwana. That’s what the constitution states, that’s what the president swore to uphold and defend.

A good servant (the president) will listen to instructions of the bwana (the people). He will do as instructed by the bwana, so he will satisfy the needs of the bwana, and keep his job.

To monitor the performance of the servant, the bwana needs to keep a close eye on the servant. It would be impractical for the people of Malawi to personally follow the line of the servant all the time.

So for this task the people have the press. The press will closely follow the servant and report on his performance to the bwana. The bwana can chose how they want to be reported to by choosing which media to support- by buying the newspaper, reading the online publication, tuning in to a radio station, etc.

The bwana is to decide how to the reports must be done. In this area the recent statements from government about “Malawians must stop reading the Nyasa Times”, or “Civil servants should not read the Nation Newspaper” are regrettable, and a clear indication the State House does not understand democracy very well.

Again, it is the bwana who decides what to read, and what not, when to read and when not and not the other way round. It is not the prerogative of the servant or his stooges to tell the bwana which reports on his performance the bwana should read or should not read.

Also the way the servant and his entourage treat the press, the eyes of the bwana, at press conferences is more than shameful. The servant oversteps his mandate and must be disciplined.

Even a good servant may need some disciplining from time to time to keep the performance at a good level. If the servant is not performing to the expected standards of the bwana he should get warnings in order to shape up as is the case at every institution.

These warnings can be in the form of press reports, petitions, letters to the editor, messages on social networking sites or indeed a stronger warning in form of mass demonstrations. If a servant, after repeated warnings does not improve his performance, there could even be a threat of dismissal.

With a president this threat of dismissal is called impeachment. This should not be taken lightly. Dismissal is the last resort. First the bwana should make sure the servant is clearly warned. But if this does not help, dismissal may be the only option.

This is done through the highest authority in the country- the Parliament. If the bwana is dissatisfied with the performance of the servant he can instruct the representatives in Parliament to dismiss the servant by means of an impeachment.

That is constitutional regime change. In this case the bwana should contact his representative, the Member of Parliament and instruct him to start an impeachment procedure.

But citizens of Malawi, remember that this is the last resort. Only in the worst situation, when improvement is impossible, should the bwana (the people) resort to dismissal of the servant (the president).

So I throw it to you. You probably have the answer to whatever is going around in our country.

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