This week, member of Parliament for Dowa North East Samuel Kawale moved a motion that the public broadcaster, Malawi Broadcasting Cooperation (MBC) be given K1.
With 74 votes against 40, the NOs carried the day by rejecting the motion to give MBC the token K1.
The opposition’s move came about after it accused the public broadcaster for not fulfilling its mandate to be a number one market leader and serving the nation through education, entertainment and informing, that instead it has been on the forefront promoting hate speech.
There is no denying the fact that MBC has always been used to favour the ruling party in its coverage of news as well as other programmes. A similar motion was tabled in the House in 2006/7 when Parliament gave MBC only K1.
That time, MBC used to run a cartoon programme called Makiolobasi which used to demonise and vilify opposition parties and politicians. All patriotic Malawians condemned the abuse that MBC which is funded by the taxpayers was subjected to especially with that programme. Never again should that happen again in a democratic dispensation. The architects of Makiolobasi will go down in the history of MBC as having presided over the most biased public broadcaster.
Makiolobasi died as all bad things ought to. The programme was not a blessing to the nation. But as it turned out, government still found a way of funding MBC. After all, MBC was established by an Act of Parliament. Giving it K1 means trying to kill it using a wrong weapon. If MBC is a bad tool, Parliament should go back to the drawing board and change the Act which in the first place created it. You cannot wake up one morning and kill something which is a legal entity.
MBC, as public broadcaster, is well resourced both in terms of human resources and equipment. It boasts some of the best trained journalists and presenters in the country. But these resources are not put to good use. MBC also has one of the widest reach in terms of its equipment. All this has been made possible through the public purse, grants and donations from development partners so that the facility can benefit all Malawians. Shamefully, this rich resource is wasted.
Since the onset of the multiparty dispensation the opposition has always cried foul over the manner MBC is used. The hypocrisy is that even during those years when the opposition has had the numbers in the House to change the law that makes MBC prone to abuse, they have not used their numbers to change the status quo.
The reason the opposition have always been coy to decapitate MBC of its wings is because they also want to abuse the same facility should they go into government. The Malawi Communications Act, for example, gives powers to Parliament to vet the MBC board to ensure that MBC discharges its duties professionally.
In the same year that the opposition legislators gave MBC a token K1 as a way of punishing it, they had the numbers to improve MBC. But they did not. That was a missed opportunity. That was hypocrisy.
In the current Parliament, opposition members also have the numbers to transform MBC. The reason they are not using their numerical strength to improve MBC is because they are selfish. We should all condemn this.
MBC is a good thing. It is just a tool such as a hoe, an axe or a gun. But if you mishandle it, whether by design or unwittingly, it can hurt you. Politicians have by design allowed MBC to hurt the nation. The problem is, therefore, first and foremost, the legislators who have the powers to change the status quo. They need to rise to the occasion and use their powers to correct wrongs.