Leader of Opposition in Parliament Lazarus Chakwera has threatened to deny funding to the State broadcaster Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) if it continues to use traditional leaders and the clergy to demonise the opposition.
In his response to President Peter Mutharika’s State of the Nation Address (Sona) on Monday, Chakwera was concerned that government was using MBC—television and radio—to vilify those holding dissenting views.
Ironically, Chakwera’s address was abruptly cut off during the Parliament programme on MBC-TV on Monday evening.
MBC has been known to parade chiefs, pro-government civil society leaders and church leaders to condemn remarks by opposition leaders and civil society organisations expressing concerns on poor governance and the state of the economy which they say is deteriorating.
Chakwera said using chiefs and others to water down the genuine concerns of the opposition for cheap political glory was a testimony of bad governance.
“If the current pattern continues, we will bring a motion at the next sitting of Parliament to defund the State broadcaster to protect taxpayers’ money from being abused in this wasteful way,” he said.
Chakwera called on government to free the traditional leaders from what he called “bond of political patronage”.
“Malawians are intelligent enough to differentiate between mere rhetoric and substance and cannot be hoodwinked into believing that government is performing by listening to the propaganda-fed panelists cartooning themselves on State television or radio,” he said.
Chakwera further suggested that MBC should be granted independence to operate like a public broadcaster just like South African Broadcasting Corporation or Botswana Television.
“Furthermore, the persecution of independent media for attempting to give Malawians the other side of the story should stop since this tendency denies them access to information as provided by the law,” he added.
In 2007, the opposition successfully defunded MBC and then Television Malawi by giving it a nominal K1 allocation for the financial year.
At the time, the opposition legislators also claimed that MBC and TVM were propaganda tools of the government being used to discredit the opposition.
At the time, there were programmes on the radio such as Mizwanya and Makiyolobasi .