State House firing raises eyebrows
Some socio-political commentators have described President Peter Mutharika’s firing of three State House press secretaries in less than two years as a sign of poor public officers’ appointment process.
In a 23-month period that Mutharika has been in office, he has hired and fired former Malawi News Editor, Frederick Ndala, presenter at Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), Timpunza Mwansambo, with the latest casualty being former Director of Information, Gerald Viola.
Ndala served as presidential spokesperson from June 2014 to January 2015 and Mwansambo served from January 2015 to April of the same year while Viola was in office from April 2015 to April 4 this year.
Social commentator, Humphrey Mvula, and Chancellor College based political scientist, Ernest Thindwa, said the past press secretary appointees have failed to effectively manage the political and professional aspects of the position.
Mvula said the swift firing speaks volumes about the qualities of the appointees.
“With due respect, probably greater attention should be given to who should be the press secretary rather than just looking at one aspect,” Mvula said adding that an ideal candidate should be one who can effectively manage information.
He said the challenge is that recommendation is usually based on political correctness of the individual not the professional aspect.
“It talks about a shallower way of looking at individuals and failure to carry out a proper appraisal. Any other job has got two aspects. That is, job specifications, what the job entails and what a person is expected to do. And then you look at the person’s specifications. Can this person do this job? Does he or she have appropriate qualifications, qualities, capabilities and experience to perform that job?” he said.
Thindwa said the press secretaries are usually chosen disregarding important aspects while the firing could also be a result of political jostling within the ruling elite.
“There could be infighting in the ruling party and perhaps people are jostling for positions and that may have an impact on who is placed where. But the most important thing is the ability to handle the affairs of that office. Some of them have gone too much into politics, instead of doing their job, they are involved more in politics,” Thindwa said.
But Viola, who thanked Mutharika for the new appointment, said being at State House is not the only way a person can serve the president describing the movement as a normal process.
According to Viola, he has served the President well and the redeployment has nothing to do with incompetence that angered Mutharika as some people speculate.
He said if Malawians continue wasting time talking ill about others, more especially on social media, it will take ages for the country to develop.
“I don’t see the problem as I was doing my job, a normal job. I was doing it smoothly. So, with these movements that are taking place and others suggesting that something is wrong at State House, I think I cannot answer on their behalf. My movement or redeployment is not firing as people are saying. If someone is on a contract and has been fired, he packs [up] and goes home.
“What is more important is to serve the President, not the State House press secretary position. I can serve the President in whatever capacity and I am happy with the position that I have been given. It is a challenging position. You know, with the press secretary position, I was only confined to the State House but this time I have bigger role within the government system,” Viola said.
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