How, what to criticize


At a recent Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) meeting in Mzuzu City, one of the speakers lamented that the church to which he belonged constantly blamed President Peter Mutharika and said it was not good doing so.
I do not know if the press quoted him correctly. In this era of post one party rule, not to criticise a president for anything he said, or has done, would be like going back to the dictatorship era. In principle, where citizens are unhappy, they should not hesitate to let the president know this.
However, a president is as human as the rest of us. If we have to criticise him for anything, there must be justification, and we must use the right words. Because someone has accepted to serve as president does not mean he has also accepted even expletive of ingratitude.
In Parliament,during the recent meeting, the Speaker of Parliament had to order certain words uttered by the leader of the opposition to be expunged out of Hansard. This was an admission of the fact that there is an acceptable way of dissenting and there is a forbidden manner of doing so.
In most cases, the person you criticise is likely to take your point and think of doing something about what you criticise if you adopt the Churchillian style of litotes or understatement. Instead of exaggerating the fault, you speak politely such as ‘I do not agree with what you say’, ‘I am not happy with what the government is doing’,instead of saying the government is completely negligent and useless. It is better to refrain from offending someone unless he has provoked you. An abused person usually reacts defensively, instead of examining carefully what you have said.
A spokesperson of the Livingstonia Synod was asked to comment on what someone had said at the DPP rally. He (the spokesperson) affirmed the right of the synod to criticise the President and said the DPP had failed to develop the Northern Region. How fair was this observation?
During most of the 73 years that the British ruled Malawi, then called Nyasaland, the Northern Region was referred to as the Dead North because of the little development by way of physical infrastructure. The criticising did not mean that people of the Northern Region were primitive as compared to those of other regions. In fact, in education, they were well ahead of other provinces, thanks to the efforts of the Free Church of Scotland, predecessor of Synod of Livingstonia.
During the era of Kamuzu/ Malawi Congress Party (MCP), Mzuzu, which has been left as a mere homestead, turned into a city. The paved road, which started at the southern end of the country, had reached Mzuzu. Still, in terms of general development, the Northern Region was still lagging behind other regions.
The United Democratic Front (UDF) government opened the University in Mzuzu and a tobacco auction market. These structures did not amount to a good deal but were genuine attempts at developing the region. If, indeed, the DPP has not developed the Northern Region, it may be because it has found the difficulties preceding governments, starting from 1891, had found.
The development of a country is influenced by basic factors such as natural resources and the quality or culture of the people found there. During the colonial days, private investors or business people from abroad did not find in the Northern Region the sort of natural resources they could exploit and which could make them rich within a reasonable time.
Either during the regime of Bakili Muluzi or that of Bingu waMutharika a survey of living standards in the country was conducted. The survey revealed that it was in the Central Region that people had the highest standards of living, followed by those of the Northern Region while the Southern Region, which had always been the most developed, there were pockets of extreme poverty.
When expressing disappointments over what the government has done, let critics in the Northern Region not give the impression that they are the only ones who are suffering. The World Bank has classified Malawi as the world’s poorest country or next to the poorest. This means the majority of Malawians, from the Southern Region to the Northern Region, are poor as a result of under-development which is a national problem not a regional one. Let us adopt the Kenya slogan of harambee, meaning let us pull together.
When teaching his disciples how to pray, Jesus Christ advised them to begin by first praising Heavenly Father before asking for some more. Similarly, those who want services from the DPP should start by acknowledging what its government has already done or is doing in the Northern Region. The MCP and UDF governments talked about building a road between Karonga and Chitipa. It was the DPP government that spoke with action.
Very many years have passed since I was a student at Livingstonia. I remember that travelling northwards from Njakwa was not easy. I read now and again that the DPP government is actively improving the road from Njakwa to Livingstonia. Why not acknowledge these facts.
Jesus taught that we must not judge, meaning that we must not be habitual fault finders. He also taught that it is easier to see a speck of dust in the other person’s eye than to see a beam in one’s own. Let us, therefore, not spend too much time criticising the President and his government, lest we forget our own weaknesses or the weakness that exists in our own organisation.
I hope I have not given the impression that the DPP does everything right. I am expressed dissatisfaction with the way it is handling the proposed reforms. Just as the First Lady is trying to beautify Malawi, so the First Gentleman should try to purify Malawi with genuine reforms as proposed by the 2007- 8 convention at Capital Hotel Lilongwe. No tempering, please.

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