Political Oratory: Power of words, the case of Khumbo and Mutharika

It is said that words create, use them wisely; be in the shoes of your audience before uttering them. For politicians in government, that audience is beyond a political podium; it is a nation. Thus it helps for politicians in positions of authority to do a self-reflection on the potential consequences of what they speak both publicly and privately.

The Khumbo Kachali Karonga slurs and even the Peter Mutharika MIJ FM slurs – made both in public and private respectively, come as classic examples. I had made a contribution previously, on the passing of Bingu wa Mutharika, that one political institution the government of President Joyce Banda needed to urgently overhaul, as a way of introducing civilized politics, was the Malawian nature of political oratory.

Khumbo Kachali: Made rude remarks in Karonga

The saddening situation is that political oratory in Malawi, both in the ruling camp and the opposition, has thrived on being combative, confrontational, defamatory, malicious, hateful and disrespectful of the emotions of those holding honest divergent views. This problem is partly caused by the ndale mindset which looks at politics as the game of entangling each other into failure.

For this reason it gives birth to “them and us” paradigms – where governments are constantly paranoid seeing those outside it as having a small axe to grind. Sometimes the negative energy comes from opposition that is driven by nothing more than seeing those in government fail. But this is the more reason people in government must approach and respond to criticisms with maturity.

It is encouraging, from the KK incident in Karonga, that Malawians are giving a cue to public officers about what the nation expect of behaviour of their servants. I can only pray that this will not be a selective incident, but that it will continue for the future KKs. This is significant because if leaders that spew hatred and demean Malawians are left unchecked what becomes of the the future politicians? The destructive and unchecked oratory of previous arrogant political personalities like ate Charles Kamphulusas and late George Bundawunda Phiris in Kamuzu’s government; Davis Kapitos in Muluzi’s government and Patricia Kaliatis in Bingu’s government have perpetuated hateful politics for too long and compromised quality of unity in our society and that is why it is refreshing to have this uproar. This country has had inter-generational been predisposition to hateful political oratory so much so that this has been normalized for the reason that none of our leaders were taken to task either by the electorate or their rank and file.

We need to imagine the slanderous political comments made during the ruling political parties’ rallies which have been broadcast and rebroadcast, often unedited since the 1964 cabinet crisis of Hastings Kamuzu Banda. Think of abongololo, wabodza lenelene, madeya, omwa mapilisi 30, tiankhwezule ting’onoting’ono etc. Does not this translate to over 40years of extra-curricular lessons on our radio and television? For not reprimanding those that misspeak, it has reinforced not just the language, but also indoctrinated nursery politicians with insulting oratory. Such politicians compromise the dignity of parenthood and do not do children glued to radios and television justice. Children expect symbols of parenthood to do what they teach, and lead by example.

Does it need to reach censorship proportions when it comes to political and presidential rallies broadcast on radio? Say LVIP10 for – Language, Violence, Insults and Prejudice and fit for those 10years and above? I had asked. How do parents ensure the safety of children? How do parents explain themselves to children who question them for being disciplined of behaviour that elders in political arena make a meal of? The KK incident must be a wakeup call for the mettle Malawians are made of.

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