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Minister refuses to do his job

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New Minister of Information, Tourism and Culture, Jappie Mhango, is refusing to do the job Malawians are paying him for although he took an oath of office on August 20, 2015.

Mhango took the oath of office as government spokesperson to effectively communicate government to the people of Malawi but he has chosen to remain mute since he replaced Kondwani Nankhumwa as Minister of Information in President Peter Mutharika’s latest Cabinet reshuffle.

The development has irked many journalists in the country who think the new minister is incompetent to handle the office.

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Media Institute of Southern Africa Malawi Chapter (Misa- Malawi) has described the development as a matter of concern.

The chapter also confirmed receiving complaints from journalists over the past weeks about Mhango’s duck and diving antics of the media.

Mhango admitted ducking questions from the press, arguing he is new and studying government policies before granting interviews.

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He said on Thursday that he should be given at least two more weeks to prepare himself for the new job as government spokesperson.

“I was appointed on August 17 and took oath on August 20. But I have been in office for two days only. I need to be given enough time before I start speaking on behalf of government. Give me at least two more weeks to understand policies. I do not want to embarrass myself and you,” said Mhango.

He added: “When in office I also need to acquaint myself with the office. Some questions I get are specific to ministries. Like today [Thursday] I was opening a hotel and journalists asked me questions about tourism. I do not have any have background to this. What do I answer? Give me time to know the dynamics of the office before I start spinning.”

But Misa Malawi has since appealed to President Peter Mutharika or his vice Saulos Chilima to intervene in the matter and urge the minister to start speaking because information will not stop flowing to wait for the minister to get ready.

“We have received complaints from journalists over the past two weeks that the new minister is refusing to grant interviews. This is a matter of concern. What it means is that government has stopped speaking to its people and that is bad governance. When President Peter Mutharika appointed him, he may have seen some capabilities unless he wants to conclude that the appointment was not on merit. Government machinery does not stop functioning to wait for him to be ready,” said Misa Malawi president Thom Khanje Friday in an interview.

Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace National Secretary, Chris Chisoni, said yesterday that Mhango should not hold the country to ransom by not talking to Malawians on things they want answers from government because he is not yet ready.

“Is he implying that government is not working? Which policies is he reading? The country should not stop waiting for him to be ready because information comes all the time. If he is reading, can he expedite whatever policies he is reading otherwise government’s failure to provide answers to issues citizens does not augur well with good governance principles. Otherwise we may insinuate that he is incompetent,” said Chisoni.

Another human rights and governance commentator, Executive Director of Justice Link and lawyer by profession, Justin Dzonzi, said while he applauded Mhango for taking time to read policies so that he speaks from knowledge point of view, he urged him to provide responses to current issues presented to him while he is preparing himself.

“The Ministry of Information has been notorious by peddling party line. If he is taking time to read policies and prepare himself so that he speaks from knowledge point of view, I applaud that. But while doing that, he must be able to deal with current issues at hand. Things will not stop happening while he is preparing himself. The ministry cannot be at standstill while he is preparing himself,” said Dzonzi.

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