Opinion & AnalysisTales of Time

Insulting a nation


HETHERWICK Ntaba has a fantastic command of the Queen’s language just as he has of Chichewa. When he is speaking either, one might think Ntaba is not fluent in the other. But the guy is gifted.

After some time, Ntaba’s unmistakable voice resonated on the radio and his face appeared on the telly. Between 2010 and 2012, Ntaba, then speaking for the late Bingu wa Mutharika, was always on air.

It was like he was a news anchor for Malawi Broadcasting Corporation Television and Radio. The most familiar theme of his presence was to refute, “correct” or lie on behalf of the government. Ntaba’s voice—I must confess—takes me back to the dark days of the iron-fisted rule of one Bingu. It sounds eerily to me.


When he recently reappeared on the scene, Ntaba was in the company of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Secretary General Greselder Jeffrey in Lilongwe. Their mission was as silly as you can imagine: they wanted to discredit the 5+1 All Inclusive Stakeholders Conference organised by the Public Affairs Committee.

Their tactic was laughable as well as it was tired. It was the same story of making allegations that some people were scheming to revolt against the government. Clearly, the DPP-led government knows that it has rundown this country and right now it is wetting in its own pants. Knowing the series of blunders it has made, the DPP now shudders even when any one coughs. So, that press conference by the DPP last week was a subtle-yet-loud confession that it realises that people are tired of its mistakes and are not happy.

But there is something else to that desperate attempt to misdirect people. If you remember well, in 2013 when “good-willing” citizens were organising public protests against Joyce Banda’s mismanagement of the country, Brown Mpinganjira— who was Minister of Information— was all over the airwaves telling Malawians that people were planning violent demonstrations to oust the then People’s Party-led government.


What most people do not read from this is that people in power think Malawians are daft and cannot detect a lie. These people believe in deceiving tactics. And when someone constantly deceives or lies to you, it means he does not have any respect for you. The reason our politicians lie to us is nothing else other than their belief that Malawians—meaning you and I—cannot tell a lie from the truth.

Talking of lies, last week Minister of Finance Goodall Gondwe told Malawians that his ministry had already deposited into accounts money meant for teachers’ leave grants. Gondwe was making this assuring statement at a time teachers had downed tools, and everyone was worried about students who were not learning.

On Friday, it turned out that Goodall, respectable as he is, was not saying the truth. So, to save face, Goodall decided to tell Parliament that he was misled by technocrats in his ministry. Even if we say that the aged minister was duped by his staff at Capital Hill, what we should be worried about is the calibre of ministers we have.

We have been saying that Goodall is old and tired and deserves some rest around the bonfires in Mzimba, but someone thinks Goodall is the best thing ever to have happened to Malawi as far as managing the economy is concerned.

Goodall, 10 years ago, was a grand master of economics and many say he was solely responsible for Bingu’s stellar first five-year term. But, as they say, all things come to an end. Goodall is past his prime and must not be allowed to control the nation’s purse.

But, of course, it is not only Goodall who has ever been duped or allowed  to be duped by his technocrats Uladi Mussa—mark the double “s” not single as mine— is pretty a young man by Malawi’s political standards. But, this other time he was also found “on the wrong” for signing documents which he claimed not to have read.

Now, reading through these incidences, what we see are leaders that are not in command of their posts: they are just figure heads, and we have them in abundance. Last week, President Peter Mutharika was on another junket to UK via Brussels, or whichever way. To wow us, the state machinery started telling us that Mutharika was on an all-important journey to sign deals worth K150 billion.

To the naive, Mutharika has struck gold, but to all of us who still have wires of sanity upstairs, Mutharika will return home with nothing but sweet talk. But Mutharika has left a burning house at home.

Chancellor College has been closed for almost six months now, teachers are on strike yet this guy would be on the plinth sermonising about education at the grand Oxford University. What happens in this country is so strange that one cannot comprehend.

It is like we are on a mad circus and we just know how to do things wrongly. Using deceptive tactics to stop people from attending a conference that discusses the state of the nation, lying that teachers have been paid when they have not been paid, flying out to give a lecture on education when your education system is crumbling at home is what we call insulting a nation.

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