The Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) Malawi Chapter has suspended President Joyce Banda’s press secretary Steven Nhlane for threatening a journalist working under the Ministry of Information and Civic Education.
The State House, through Nhlane, warned the senior journalist, Grace Kapatuka, through an e-mail for a personal comment she made on a journalists’ online forum about the controversial jet Malawi sold.
Nhlane, who was a member of the professional google group forum for journalists, asked Kapatuka to resign if she was not ready to work for the President.
Angered by Nhlane’s action which they described as overzealousness, journalists, through the forum, asked the moderator to suspend Nhlane from the forum and that he apologises to Kapatuka.
Misa Malawi Chapter chairperson Anthony Kasunda posted on the forum on Sunday: “Following Mr Steven Nhlane’s recent actions to do with Grace Kapatuka, the [Misa Malawi] National Governing Council is taking steps to charge the Presidential Press Secretary for suspected breach of its rules and regulations.
“Mr Nhlane has, therefore, been suspended forthwith from the forum. The matter is being handled by Misa Malawi legal counsel. Keep discussing freely.”
Members applauded the stand Misa Malawi has taken.
The forum, managed by the Misa Malawi Chapter, is a google group where journalists from private and public media houses share and debate professional issues.
A few days ago one journalist from a private media house posted about the proceeds of the sold presidential jet and how the funds were supposedly handled.
Kapatuka, a deputy editor at Boma Lathu newspaper which is under the Department of Information commented on the forum: “Kodi zinayenda choncho ndalama zija eeeti?” [Oh, that’s how the money was handled?]
The comment got her the wrath from the State House.
Nhlane, in an e-mail dated February 18 2014, addressed to Kapatuka and copied to principal secretary in the Ministry of Information Luckie Sikwese and director of Information Chikumbutso Mtumodzi, informed her that he had seen her post on the Misa forum regarding the money from the sale of the Presidential jet.
Wrote Nhlane: “I do not expect such posts from people like you—civil servants. If you are not happy working for the Ministry of Information or indeed for President Dr Joyce Banda and her government, the best thing for you to do is to quit quietly.”
In an interview with Weekend Nation last week, Nhlane admitted writing an e-mail to Kapatuka, explaining that the comment she made was degrading to the President and not befitting to come from a public servant.
Nhlane said: “Did you read her comment? She said ‘Oh! Ndalama zinayenda choncho eti?’ I wrote her the e-mail simply to advise her that as a civil servant, she was not supposed to make such a comment.”
Asked if a mere advice would have necessitated him to copy the same to a whole principal secretary and a director of Information, Nhlane asked for a questionnaire which was duly sent but was not responded to.
Our sister paper Nation on Sunday investigations revealed last Sunday that the $15 million (about K6.3 billion) proceeds from the sale of the presidential jet have vanished and both fiscal and monetary authorities never received it.
Various sources confirmed the funds never reached the Consolidated Fund or what is sometimes called Government Account Number One domiciled at Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM) where all public revenue goes.
Government sold the jet in July last year to Bohnox Enterprises, a British Virgin Islands-based firm that Nation on Sunday investigations revealed to be a subsidiary of Paramount Group.
Paramount Group, Africa’s largest privately owned defence and aerospace company, is owned by Ivor Ichikowitz, whose family foundation paid British public relations firm Bell Pottinger to spruce up President Banda’s cashgate-soiled image.