Pressure is mounting on Deputy Minister of Transport and Public Works Charles Mchacha to apologise for the verbal attack on Nation Publications Limited (NPL) investigative journalist Bobby Kabango during an interview enquiring about his acquisition of a plot.
Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter and Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) have faulted the deputy minister, who is also governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the Southern Region, for verbally attacking and intimidating the journalist.
Misa Malawi Chapter chairperson Tereza Ndanga on Monday asked Minister of Information, Civic Education and Communications Technology Mark Botomani to assure the public that President Peter Mutharika is committed to media freedom and freedom of expression.
Reads the Misa Malawi statement: “We expect the Mutharika administration, through the Ministry of Information, to dissociate itself from Honourable Mchacha’s conduct and assure the nation that Honourable Mchacha’s actions are not a reflection of government policy to threaten and intimidate journalists working to uphold principles of transparency and accountability in a nation whose Constitution guarantees media freedom.”
Misa Malawi says it expects to hear from both Botomani and Mchacha by February 17 2020.
On its part, in a statement issued on February 6 2020, HRCC is demanding that Mchacha should resign from his ministerial post because his conduct has brought disgrace to the government and the President.
HRCC, a network of 97 organisations, has also asked Mutharika to fire Mchacha in the best interest of Malawians as a matter of urgency.
Reads the statement: “As the minister has openly declared that he doesn’t aspire for higher offices, we would like to agree with him that his conduct and attitude indeed does not suit a person in the high office of minister. We, thus, demand that he honourably resigns from his post with immediate effect.”
Mchacha launched a verbal tirade on Kabango on December 11 2019 as the journalist followed up on a story about his acquisition of a plot purportedly belonging to the Department of Forestry in Kanjedza, Blantyre.
NPL deputy chief executive officer Alfred Ntonga on December 18 2019 lodged a complaint through Botomani against Mchacha’s conduct.
In the letter, Ntonga observed that Mchacha’s use of obscene language was disgraceful and his threat a threat to transparency and accountability as tenets of good governance.
Responding to the NPL complaint through a letter dated January 10 2020, Botomani assured that that the matter would be treated with the seriousness it deserved.
Said the minister: “I will come back to you as soon as I am through with my consultations. Let me further assure you that government through my ministry values and upholds freedom of the press.” When contacted yon Monday, Botomani said his ministry has made progress on the matter by, among other things, consulting Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale for guidance.