This week the President took a swipe at free speech, a similar path taken in the past by his predecessors; Bingu wa Mutharika, Peter Arthur Mutharika and Joyce Banda when they were about to nose-dive on democracy.
An attack on free speech many times foretells bad tidings to come and as the desire to be praised heightens anyone with alternative opinion faces scorn and is labeled enemy. Sadly, governance downsides become the order of the day.
This is a start which earns a bad reputation for the Presidency internationally and in the eyes of the donor community whose support the present regime requires.
To refresh readers’ memories, President Lazarus Chakwera this week at some ceremony christened presidential awards said social media is not building the community as it was intended but now is being used for mob justice. In his view, it might seem anyone can demand the summary dismissal of public officials who make any kind of mistake or call for the arrest of any public official whose crime cannot be proven beyond gossip.
Chakwera called social media commentary as “disgruntled WhatsApp Group”. Negative mindset pays money to disillusioned young people to flood social media with negative stories about the government, he said.
Everyone clapped. Look, what else could they do having munched chakalaka boerewors and kilombero rice at the glimmering State House amidst rising cost of basics greeting them in their homes. They had no choice but to clap.
The comment was made to unjustly cause an intention to control freedom of expression, media and quash opposing views. Mr. President the right to freedom of expression is a fundamental human right enshrined in the Constitution and your oath was to defend this sacred piece of law.
Mr. President, is the aura of the State House so dazzling that in under 12 months you have developed amnesia and forgotten you are a product of citizen power, civil society, mainstream media, social media, judiciary and Malawi Defence Force (MDF)? Mr. President this is how you rose to power, a gentle reminder, Sir.
No President in this country has ever risen to power via a constructive conspiracy of the media, justice system, civil society and moral support from MDF other than your good-self. Always remember as you despise the institutions that were there for you as you battled with the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
To attack the media today for giving contrary opinions or for merely providing checks and balances can be likened to Hop Along’s well-dressed, but walking in the wrong direction lyrics.
When the media reminded you Mr. President on unmet promises, a litany of them actually your response was people are so obsessed with campaign promises. Things have changed, you said, and addressed yourself as Captain. This meant no need to go by promises.
To raise this is what Mr. President you are calling pettiness and social media abuse. This example alone in terms of optics reflects someone whose directives can be ignored with abandon.
Mr. President, there are no two ways about arresting negativity and disgruntled behaviour—just deliver and shame critics. No one is disgruntled, no one has been paid to attack your administration, the problem is that you are not delivering Mr. President and many Malawians won’t say this in your face but at least some Malawi Congress Party [MCP] youth went on rampage this week over your administration’s malaise just in case your inner circle has hid that from you.
Godot, we waited for a long time.