Freedom of expression does not give one the right to insult those with whom they disagree, but rather to learn to agree to disagree.
Events in the past months have been quite perturbing. In the past months, the country has witnessed how politics of insults have taken centre-stage as the young, old, leaders and followers, hurl insults at each other—all in the name of rooting for their political parties and candidates. It is as if there is a competition which will award a politician who has hurled better and more insults at their opponents and critics. This is disappointing and shameful.
Hurling insults on one another simply shows that politicians lack substance and are incapable of tackling real issues of national importance, which is what many Malawians are itching to hear from them. When Malawians tune in to their radios and TVs, they do not want to listen to who has a better book of profanities, but they want to hear how you, the politicians, are going to address the economic and social ills that they face every day.
The indulgence in hurling insults creates panic and fear. What is more tragic is seeing leaders who claim to be Christians, and insist that Malawi is a God-fearing nation, call their opponents and critics ‘agalu’ ‘Nthumbidwa’ and use language that promotes hate and violence such as “ndi kunyenyaninyenyani”.
Let me say it here that both parties—the opposition and the party in government—are equally guilty of this. So far, no one has come out as the bigger person who says, ‘it’s Ok you insulted me, but I won’t respond to your insults with an insult’. It’s unfortunate that every politician seems like they are polishing up their skills at hurling insults.
Freedom of expression must be used to protect moral values of society, including the right to enforce the principle of equal rights and respect for people of diverse persuasions or backgrounds. If, as a politician, you do not agree with what your opponents say, the best way to counter that is to come up with a more convincing argument why you think your opponents are wrong. This can be done in a constructive and respectful manner, and not with insults.
Going into the 2019 Tripartite Elections, politicians need to dwell on substantive issues in their campaign messages and not spend energy insulting and disrespecting each other. We want to listen to the radio and watch TV with our children, mothers, fathers, grandparents, and be able to discuss issues that the politicians have said, and not cringe at the insults they are hurling at each other.
For the sake of peace, which we Malawians must continue to guard jealously, politics of insults must stop. Tell the people of Malawi what you will do for them and not how you hate your opponents.
And to you Mr President and Madame Callista Mutharika, please spare us your family drama. We all have our fair share of drama in our families, but we do not tackle it in public. Take your family issues to your elders (ankhoswe ndi ena) and sort it out.