Thou shall not supress CSO and the Media

Every beginning has an end, and every ending heralds a new beginning.

Ours is a beautiful story with a beautiful beginning.

Just barely a year ago, we were earmarked as a model of democracy, a beaconing symbol of hope that successfully emitted a new fragrance of change.

That beautiful aroma of change was not only enticingly attractive, but it did a great job giving our nation a much needed facelift.

We were radiantly bright and became the most luminous of all nations.

The accolades never stopped coming, soon we were chosen as the most improved and country of the year by the Economist.

Our judges were acknowledged and awarded the Chatham house prize for their contribution to the strengthening of our democratic standards which were under threat by the previous government.

For the first time we were on the world news headlines for all good reasons and we had collectively spewed out something that was admirable.

Overnight, we became an instant hit, trendsetters in our own rank, setting the pace, for others to follow.

We were fully shaping the regional discourse and redefining African politics and the role of active citizenry.

And maybe, just maybe, if we were focused to stay on course and if we valued legacy over bravado and tried to avoid unnecessary blunders on the foreign policy front and resisted to be seen as xenophobes because of the way we mishandled the refugee issues, I think our president could have been awarded the highest recognition like the Nobel prize.

Unlike elsewhere in other countries where political change is a challenge, the uniqueness of this multidimensionality was what made our story different.

Malawians did not attempt to fight for change on a single line scale.

The success of our story found root in a rare collective resilience and unity of purpose. And, the ordinary people. Malawians.

It was the consolidation of these strategical key groups; Civil Society Organisations (CSO), Media, Malawi Defence Force (MDF) and the Judiciary that created a synergy which produced a more effective and coherently stronger front with unprecedented advantage and such a huge exponential prowess for the Tonse alliance.

The unrelenting media assaults with such blunt verbal projectiles led by Brian Banda and his cohost George Kasakula were as compelling as they landed, resonating with many desperate Malawians.

‘Noble Knights’

The ground forces that were mobilized by Timothy Mtambo and the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) squad were tenacious and audaciously bold.

And, in such a distinctive way, our army stood up against police brutality and was uniquely disciplined, providing a secure and safe path for citizens.

They made sure that the rights to demonstrate were never infringed upon or disenfranchised.

So as you can see, the Tonse reality could not have been realized had it not been for the active role of civil society organizations and media plus a very engaged and willing citizenry.

As a nation we have come a long way. We finally figured it out all by ourselves with no help from the donor community and development partners, thanks to our constitutional court judges.

This a Malawi we all envisaged and it is our exclusive story.

Any subsequent government coming in has to be ushered on a continued and encouraging auspicious promise that citizens will always be uniquely placed at the center of every engine of government with all necessary tools to hold leaders accountable.

So to wake up to some news that the once mighty HRDC noble knights are being scattered by government to foreign missions was not only appalling but terribly astounding.

In the absence of a strong opposition, HRDC has been the credible alternative.

And frankly, government has been more afraid of this assemblage than they have been with our weak and compromised opposition.

Surprising? Not at all. If you are an ardent follower of detail and you pay attention, you will notice the ornamentation has been decorated with a regular repetitive pattern with an encrypted flawless execution.

Unlike the other impetuous and reckless actions that this administration has taken amidst so many strategical blunders that have led to a number of impulsive walk backs on its key decisions now and again, this I should admit has been very well calculated and handled.

This seems to be a piecemeal maneuverer, a steady continuation of a stealth operation that the Chakwera led government has been carrying out to systematically obliterate or contain and silence these kinds of conglomerates with large megaphones.

As to whether this is an appeasement strategy to simply placate those with a capacity to hold government accountable, or if this is a genuine consolation for the soldiers who never abandoned their posts during the struggle, we may not be certain.

But one thing we are certainly sure of is; the Tonse brainiacs have managed to pull it off well, and in a very undetectable manner they have successfully stayed under radar while killing the effective role of civil society and media so that they can easily roam and go about their business freely with no proper checks and balances.

The appointment of Mr. Brian Banda to be presidential press secretary, then his buddy and former cohost on the most influential Times Television prime show, The Hot Current, Mr George Kasakula, to be the Director General of MBC to be precise was no fluke.

It was intentional and meant to stifle the the voices of those who had capacity to influence a narrative that could shape perceptions.

‘Mere Silhouette’

As slick as it sounds, there seems to be a remarkable concurrence of activities that have followed the in same pattern.

For example the appointment of Comrade Timothy Mtambo as a cabinet minister.

Others have been persuaded to believe this was a tactical disposal just to get rid of, and silencing the strongest voice and the most revolutionary man of our generation.

They gave a juicy bone to the most loudest barking bulldog for fear that he could turn around and bit them.

Initially the justification for his appointment was somehow making sense.

The truth is after every war, there’s always a culture and a mindset of rebellion that settles in as a residual paradigm that needs to be broken instantly.

Knowing that Mtambo was a man who single handedly ignited a fire of revolution that was burning in many Malawians especially the young people and seemed to be going nowhere, it was prudent for President Chakwera to use a man who at that time catalyzed a needed relevance with these insurgent groups and was seen to be one of them.

Comrade Mtambo was the only one who could have possibly extinguished that raging inferno.

Understandably, there had to be a way to redirect that energy from Nsundwe and North Korea (Mzuzu) into something more productive.

There was a need for a National re-orientation to foster a mindset change through constant engagement.

Hence a specific vibrant civic space would not only be needed but it would also form such an integral part of our working system to enforce that citizens were adequately educated about rights, duty and responsibility.

Although others may view Comrade Mtambo as a polarizing figure, I personally find him to be a capable leader who has demonstrated strongly enough that he can mobilize, setup structures and turn things around if given a chance.

But then, in the retrospect, the look of things suggests otherwise. Whether by intention or not, the ministry portfolio he was given has always remained underfunded, underutilized and almost not promoted by government.

This then begs the question; was this ministry created just like a nebulous place where the outspoken comrade would be banished and eventually reduced into a mere silhouette or just a shadow of his version?

Was this a dumping ground? or was this another case of kudyetsa chi banzi?

By giving him a ministry that was an enigma, was government trying to redirect his energy to something else?

Was comrade Mtambo and now HRDC blindly incriminated that they accepted comfort over purpose?

‘Subtle undertone’

Prior to Tonse alliance coming into power, the CSOs and media played a very critical role and managed to galvanize the demand side effectively in holding the then government accountable.

Therefore one would have thought that this government being a direct beneficiary of a functional support system should have been the first to Work in strengthening and protecting the enabling environment for civil society instead of dismantling it.

In a vibrant democracy the fundamental right to seek and disseminate information through an independent press is paramount.

The fact that this government roped in a media mogul to head its propaganda machinery as government spokesperson and information minister was ill timed.

The subtle undertone by this gesture was completely obtuse to the many Malawians.

To Mr Gospel Kazako’s credit, we applaud Zodiak broadcasting for maintaining professionalism and sound ethics.

We don’t want to see our media and CSOs compromised period.

In conclusion I would like to end on a very positive note. As you know we have now clocked a year of Tonse government under Dr Lazarus Chakwera and his deputy Dr Saulos Chilima.

We have not heard of activist’s homes being petrol bombed.

We have enjoyed a very open engagement with our leaders. To a fair extent, this has been indeed a listening government.

The fact that a private citizen like myself can have the liberty to sit behind a computer and exercise my rights as a citizen and a provocateur, should not be taken for granted.

We have seen other private agitators providing credible apparatuses into probing corruption like the MK6.2 Billion Covid scandal simply because this government allowed and chose to liberalise the Access to Information bill, for that I thank you President Chakwera and his team.

However, I will caution you to desist from taking one step forward and choosing to reverse immediately.

Good things are hard to achieve and they take long to realize but they can easily be lost in instant if we are not careful.

Every action will set precedence and bare consequences. Every intention to suppress CSOs and the Media will backfire, if not now but in the near future.

The health and survival of our democracy will totally depend on how much your government is willing to lay down as a foundation for the generations to follow.

The pillars of our democracy will always be strong governance institutions, CSOs, Media, disciplined security force and informed citizens.

Our beautiful story like any story has a beginning. We know how it all began. People were tired. They had to act.

How this will end, we don’t know. We can only hope that it will not end in tears with all that beautiful beginning.


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President Mkango Chisokonezo Manthakanjenjemereza
President Mkango Chisokonezo Manthakanjenjemereza
2 years ago

Please the writer Know difference between fraud and corruption. With 6.2 billion there was alleged fraud that is why the National Audit Office was called to investigate. If it was corruption the ACB would have investigated.

2 years ago

Rubbish article: You have failed to appreciate that perhaps the people like Mtambo you are grandisizing are simply opportunists and politicians who were paving their political careers masguarading as human rights defenders. Do not lie to us here, all those appointed to embassies are looking forward to take those posts for their own benefits. Would YOU refuse if you were appointed to be ambassador in New York tomorrow. Be honest to yourself.

Nyasatimes ikubitsa ma comments osagwilizana nawo

That movement was more about jealousy, greed and frustration than it was about changing the country and all our fortunes. It was about people who wanted to have their share of the cake than improving the poor mans fortunes. Palibe tinaphulapo, dziko tidapatsa dzifwamba.

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