It is common knowledge that information black-out is a recipe for rumour mongering, gossiping as well as speculations. This is true even in running a government. If people are pre-occupied with rumour mongering and speculating about national issues, it is a sign that the government has no system for giving correct information to its people. People end up making decisions based on rumours. This is what it means with a government without a clear communication strategy. Hence, whatever is said by the President is taken with a pinch of salt because people are already convinced with rumours. What is stated here, is the situation in Malawi.
Rumour mongering is the order of the day. Needless to say that it is necessary that what is supposed to be for public information, the government must communicate it to the people without any contradiction. Unfortunately, the APM’s government seems to think that Malawians should remain as ignorant as possible. Probably, this is done with the understanding that it is easier to rule ignorant people than enlightened ones.
The other thing is that government, especially President Peter Mutharika, seems to feel that he is answerable to no one; therefore, it is not necessary to explain any queries. This is the likely reason the President was so angry, last week, to the point of banging tables during the press conference after his return from United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. In fact, Malawians simply wanted to know why he had taken such a big delegation of over 100 people. Naturally, people might have concluded that his shouting live on television and radio was/is a defensive mechanism or a cover-up for spending millions of kwacha when the country is in dire straits. It was unbelievable to see and hear the President even use the words ng’we, ng’we, ng’we, in referring to voices of civil servants who are asking for salary increase. The President should know better that the civil service is the back-bone of the economy and, therefore, deserves respect. Their requests must be properly addressed, instead of making fun of them.
To avoid being irritated by the press or inquisitive Malawians in general, the President would have communicated with the people of Malawi to let them know about who was in the entourage and for what purpose. Above all, indicate how much taxpayers’ money was to be used. This is not too much to ask for in the name of transparency and accountability.
People’s comments on this would have forced government to adjust accordingly. This would have avoided the show-off drama at the press conference whereby the President even revealed that he is ‘super rich’ and, therefore, does not need taxpayers’ money. With all due respect, this was irrelevant information. If indeed he is ‘super rich’, why not start charitable organisations to help the poor people? Just boasting about being ‘super rich’ when the taxpayers still pay the President’s salary and his up-keep, does not mean anything.
It must be mentioned that Malawians have a right to ask their President mostly on national issues which affect them. Obviously, the least they expect is for their President to shout at them and refer to what they say as ‘nonsense’. If the shouting is meant to intimidate the people, then it is the wrong method. People will not stop to find out how their hard-earned money is being used. If government continues not to communicate to people properly, APM and his government should brace for more misunderstandings with the people of Malawi.