Government hides the truth

If you go to one demonstration and then go home, that's something, but the people in power can live with that. What they can't live with is sustained pressure that keeps building, organisations that keep doing things, people that keep learning lessons from the last time and doing it better the next time.
Noam Chomsky

Power is a drug on which the politicians are hooked. They buy it from the voters, using the voters' own money.
Peter Newman


The Mhlako Triumvirate

Thursday, March 17, 2011


My apologies for not posting this earlier. We had a protracted local electricity fault and a lot of catching up to do when power came back on.
Just a few days ago, I believe it was when Bingu was addressing a passing out parade at the Police school, he chose to say “And in case any of you do not understand English let me say in Chichewa …” He made it quite clear in both languages that Inspector General Mukhito would not apologise to Blessings Chinsinga for calling him out for something he had said in a lecture at Zomba’s Chancellor College.
What the President said in English was clear enough for anyone to understand. And what he said at the Kamuzu Stadium on Sunday, March 6 last, in English only, was absolutely clear to me. And it was equally clear to everyone else that I have spoken to who had heard it. It was clear also to the media who reported that Bingu was inciting the DPP youth wing to ‘protect’ him in the manner of Kamuzu Banda’s dreaded Young Pioneers and Youth League and of the thugs masquerading as Bakili’s UDF Young Democrats. That he chose not to have clarified his meaning by saying it again in Chichewa is an indication that he had no doubt that we would understand him clearly. Let’s face it – he lost it and displayed growing dictatorial intolerance.
On Monday came the damage control with senior government and Party officials stating at a Press conference and on Capital Radio that the President did not mean what he said – or what we believed him to have said. Bingu goofed and his lieutenants realized that. But the damage control did not work. Those who heard Bingu’s words did not accept their spin.
Everything was dying down. We were all waiting for the next Bingu rant. Someone at the top must have told Bingu that the excuses weren’t going down well with a horrified public. So now, in case we did not understand the spin, there is an Official Press Statement telling us independent listeners that we do not understand English and have misunderstood what we were sure were clear references to violent action by the youth against political ‘opponents’.
I find the wording of the Press Statement insulting. It insults my intelligence and it imputes to me an intention to deliberately distort the meaning of what I heard him say. I wrote in my last post about PARANOIA and this is a clear indication that our President is now paranoid. I am, like all Malawians, free to hold my own opinions. My opinions were formed by my clear understanding of what he said. I have no motive to ‘deliberately attach wrong characterizations.’ From the way things have been going recently in his Government who could blame us for characterizing him as a man deliberately inciting his youth because he is intolerant of criticism and stubborn to boot. The behavior of the President in his second term in office has turned me and the millions of other Malawians who voted for him into the disenchanted mass that now believes that he is leading this country to ruin. Three more years is three years too many!
Local readers of our newspapers will have read the full page advert that appeared on 16th March. For the benefit of those who have not had access, the full text is reproduced below. It needs no further comment from me because it quite clearly demonstrates the depths to which we have now sunk. The wording does nothing towards healing the harm of the President’s own words. In fact it reflects very badly on him and the sycophants and self-seekers who surround him.
We can only wonder for how much longer the DPP MPs will allow us to suffer? They should also think of a future without him – and without his personal appointee successor. Time to resign and become independants.
As an indication of how bad things really are, our long term friends from the diplomatic corps felt that they should make the joint statement that appears below. I cannot remember that they ever felt so strongly before that they should feel compelled to make a statement of this nature.
Joint Statement
February 11, 2011
Lilongwe, Malawi
We, the Heads of Mission, representing France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States, share the concerns voiced by many Malawians about certain negative trends in the country.  The passage of the Penal Code Amendments Act has heightened these concerns. We remain deeply committed to Malawi and its people. As partners and friends, we would like to recall that good governance and respect for human rights – including freedom of expression, observance of democratic principles, freedom from discrimination – are the foundation upon which our partnership is built. Because of this enduring commitment to Malawians, it is our responsibility as partners and friends to monitor closely Malawi’s adherence to international standards for protecting its citizens’ rights. We look forward to expanded dialogue with the Government of Malawi about these concerns.

Text of Press Statement:
The State House has yet again noted with sadness what is becoming a distressing habit of deliberately attaching wrong characterizations by His Excellency the State President Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika.
The habit is worrisome and distressing because the mischaracterizations are made in the glare of all facts and information that should help any sound critic to correctly project the image of the President and put his remarks in their rightful context.
In calling on the supporters of the Democratic Progressive Party during a mass rally at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre on Sunday March 6, 2011 to ‘protect’ him from those that disparage his leadership and government, the President has been deliberately misunderstood by some sections of the civil society and the media who have specialized in finding fault with everything he says, to have meant that DPP supporters should physically molest his critics. This is extremely disappointing.
To begin with, His Excellency the President never explicitly used any such words that would be understood or interpreted in their ordinary nature as meaning that he wanted his detractors to be physically assaulted.
His Excellency the State President cannot be accused of giving an implicit instruction either because there is no basis. An implicit interpretation in this regard could only be deduced from the President’s record on the matter he is being accused of. In this regard, it goes without saying that with regard to violence the record of His Excellency the President is, authentic, immaculate and impeccable. His Excellency the President has always advised the DPP Youth never to molest anyone or engage in violent acts that would tarnish the good image of the Party. Therefore, there is no ground for misinterpreting his remarks on the matter in question in the context of whipping up violence against his cynics.
It stands to be clear therefore that what the State President said at the rally had a different meaning away from violence because he has never been associated with it. Those who are familiar with the background, demeanour and character of His Excellency Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika will be the first to testify that he has made intellectual engagement and sound persuasion as the only tools for propounding his ideas. State House challenges any critic to produce evidence that would prove the foregoing characteristics of the State President wrong.
From the above explanation, it is clear to understand that His Excellency the State President meant that the DPP supporters had to deal with his critics in a manner that embraces the ideals that have always guided his manner of propounding his ideas, namely intellectual engagement and sound persuasion.
The word ‘protect’ as used by the State President should not be misunderstood by his critics for purposes of creating a pretext for justifying their calculated treachery of condemning him. If the word is understood generously and alongside the total package of information regarding the character of His Excellency, it is easy to understand that he meant that people will resign to the discipline of silence once they have been supplied with information and clarifications through engagement and discourse.
The State House is surprised that some sections of the general public still need assurance, when it is abundantly obvious that His Excellency the State President Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika is a true and practical democrat who swore to defend the Constitution of Malawi and has ensured during his reign that his people enjoy their inherent freedoms on a rostrum that is shared by rights and responsibilities. The civil society does not need to be reminded that the DPP party which the State President founded and leads is truly progressive and democratic.
Signed: Albert Mungomo, State House Press Office, Sanjika Palace, Blantyre, 14th March 2011

It would be superfluous of me to comment. I think intelligent readers will pick up the flaws in the argument – that is if they bothered to read this to the end. I wonder whether Mr. Mungomo gets paid by the word. Someone should tell him that sometimes silence is the best defence! If he were working for me I would have fired him for this. But maybe his boss thinks it’s great.

In the above press release you may have noted that we are about to get a new definition of ‘protect’. That is not all that worrying because if he issues a completely new dictionary we will be able to translate all of his words using his own definitions and work out for ourselves what he really means! Unfortunately, one gets the impression that the definitions will change according to his particular needs.

What is very worrying is that Bingu has just announced that he will set up a committee to redefine ‘academic freedom’ because the University lecturers are refusing to go to class until such time as they get an assurance that their academic freedom will not be abused. Someone should tell the President that the concept of academic freedom is widely understood and where there is a dispute over interpretation there is sure to be a large body of case law that will clarify the issue. One of the other two arms of government, the judiciary, has that task.
In a future blog, when I get some time, I will endeavour to make my own suggestions as to how the new Bingu Dictionary will redefine our freedoms – to suit himself, since Mr. Mungomo has painted such a good picture of him (not one that I recognize!) In the meantime I would welcome suggestions from readers as to how they, if they were Bingu, would redefine them.

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