Members of Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) elected a new governing council in Lilongwe on June 3. Congratulations to the new chairperson Teresa Ndanga, her deputy Cliff Kawanga and executive member Mandy Pondani.
Having followed the campaign for the last three months, I have a few observations and lessons for further reflection.
First, the media industry has grown in numbers, diversity and quality. Misa secretariat showed that it has about 800 members drawn from a variety of media houses, including community radios.
But this was a women’s game as four out of the six contestants were women. The election of Ndanga is testimony to the change in media men’s attitude towards women in power.
However, the team approach, though criticised for dividing media practitioners into ‘political party’, is a good way of enhancing team members’ unity.
The contestants grouped themselves into Team FSC (comprising Frank Phiri, Sellina Kainja and Chimwemwe Njoloma) and TCM embodying Ndanga, Kawanga and Pondani. These “shadow cabinets” mean that candidates get to know one another better and use their individual strengths to their advantage. Constitutionally, the team approach ensures that Misa is represented in all three regions.
Journalists rallied over cause for which they are passionate about. Both FSC and TCM had each a slogan, with Ndanga’s winning camp consistently campaigning on the promise to put journalism first.
One of the major lessons is that a healthy debate is possible. While the debate became dirty at some points, some journalists demonstrated self-restraint.
But these elections have demonstrated that it is possible for journalists to keep away from political influence. Political parties, especially those in power, would not want a Misa leadership that is objective, balanced and independent.
While stories were ripe that some senior politicians infiltrated a camp, the candidates behaved in a manner that was intent on electoral integrity.
With the rise of social media, it was no surprise that journalists belonged to several WhatsApp electoral groups that interacted intelligently.
This was unlike in previous elections when the quantity of social media generation and consumption was much lower.
The results have revealed that journalists value education. While this was a heavily debated area, it seems the voters considered the higher educational qualifications as a necessity.
Incidentally, all the winning candidates have master’s degrees-a big testimony of what the journalists themselves demand of national leadership for the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary.
While the media in Malawi is largely youthful, the presence of senior media practitioners aged 50 and above provided credibility, inspiration and guidance to the emerging generation of journalists in the country.
Lastly, the dependence on God could not be ignored. Several people were praying for these elections. One journalist told me that she had prayed and fasted for three days. Personally I saw God at work on Friday, a day before the polls when I turned to him in prayer for intervention on funds for the team.
We were short by over half a million kwacha by noon, but, all expenses were met by end of 24 hours.
It is commendable that Misa peacefully ushered in new leadership that has to ensure its financial sustainability, systematic rebuilding, donor confidence and vibrancy.
This may be the most closely watched governing council not only because it is led by a woman, but also to implement the Access to Information Act as well as oversee the media during the 2019 Malawi elections.