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Fault-finders: Muckraking on Sunday

You don’t have to

speak truth to power,

because they know it already;

What you do is join with the people

and try to find the truth

Noam Chomsky

Death is the inevitable consequence of birth. Although death is inevitable for any living thing, one wonders why this monster takes certain people in their prime.

If I could do deals with death I could have asked him (I am assuming such a mean character must be male) to spare one homo sapien a while longer – one Du Chisiza Jnr. Look, my friend Du was the avant garde of the nascent Malawi theatre. At only 36, the actor died decades too early.

I am remembering this special friend from Karonga today because of one of his stand-ups that has inspired today’s talk.

You see, pro-democracy campaigner Chakufwa Tom Chihana was at his peak this other period. If truth be told, Simbi ya Moto’s heroic return to Malawi from a dissidents’ conference in Lusaka, Zambia, in March 1992, was the harbinger of the multiparty politics we are enjoying today.

The Catholic bishops took the cue from Chihana and, on April 6 that seminal year, spoke truth to power with their epoch-making epistle, Living our Faith. The rest, as they say, is history.

Suffice to say, however, Chihana – although businessman-cum-politician Bakili Muluzi beat him to the seat Hastings Kamuzu Banda had warmed for 30 years – became the king-maker anybody could ignore at their own peril.

Inevitably, because he grew too powerful, he was not short of critics. But his ardent supporters could not fathom anyone raising a finger at someone they believed was the next best thing to have happened to the human race after Jesus of Nazareth.

So, during one of his stand-ups at the French Cultural Centre in Blantyre, Du made a joke about Chihana and quite a few in the crowd did not like it…

…Upon which Du said, “Some people get angry on behalf on Chihana!”

That sent the auditorium into stitches.

But, jokes aside, Du’s observation remains true today.

Look, when he raises issues most patriotic Malawians think the leadership could have done better, President Peter Mutharika’s apologists go all over the place accusing the Muckraker of being a ‘fault-finder’.

Fine, but I would like a discussion on whether the ‘fault’ I find is no fault at all.

Besides, I would like to suggest that ‘fault-finders’ are actually important to civilisation.

If you do not agree with me, imagine yourself sick. If you go to a doctor what you are doing is asking the physician to find out what is wrong with you so that they can find the right medication to fix it. That is ‘fault-finding’, if you get my drift.

If the doc finds the ‘fault’ they prescribe the right medication and fix it and you are back at your desk at school or at work. So what is wrong with ‘fault-finding’?

Similarly, if your car is making strange noises; it cannot pull, the engine is misfiring or it is over-heating, you go to a mechanic to ‘find the fault’. If they find the fault, they fix new plugs or cables and your jalopy goes back on Kamuzu’s M1 gliding at a cool 120 kilometres per hour.

So what is wrong with ‘fault finders’?

So you see now, anyone with their heart in the right place, the grey matter between their ears working properly, will agree with me that if there were no ‘fault-finders’ amidst us in the form of doctors or mechanics, for example, we could have been dropping dead like mosquitoes sprayed with Doom; our cars could have been packing up in the middle of the highway never to move again.8

There are ‘fault-finders’ in all facets of life that makes the very life possible.

So ‘fault-finders’, like the Muckraker or whatever form they come in, keep our democracy alive. If there were no ‘fault-finders’ like Chihana, the Catholic bishops and Muluzi, our beautiful Malawi could have been a failed state like Somalia by now.

Indeed, if there were no ‘fault-finders’ like the media and Billy Kaunda (yes, remember Agalatiya?) Bakili Muluzi could have gotten his ‘sad term’, wrongly referred to as ‘third term’, and sunk the ship we call Malawi. 

Again, if there were no ‘fault-finders’, the Big Kahuna could have taken us off the precipice.

Joyce Banda, too, was stopped in her tracks by agile ‘fault-finders’; thus ‘cashgate’ was exposed on her watch.

So, what is wrong with ‘fault-finders’ checking Peter Mutharika?

‘Fault-finders’ have the thankless job of shaping up leaders to do well. If leaders do what they are supposed to do, the Muckraker has no business clapping hands for them for that is what they are handsomely remunerated for.

If leaders take the wrong turn – like needlessly being away from base for extended periods of time and sleeping in obscenely priced hotels, the Muckraker will fault them for he is so patriotic he does not want them to fail.

The Muckraker will continue to be irreverent to authority as well as being loyal to the flag.

Hand-clapping to authority even when they are making cartoons of themselves make them grow big headed they forget they hold power on our behalf. We have to constantly hold their feet to the fire, as it were, so that they always remember we employed them as malinyeros to steer the ship to the Promised Land.

Speaking truth to power is not a crime in a democracy; it is part of the game, we just have to live with it – whether we like it or not.

The Maravi Post has over one billion views since its inception in December of 2009. Viewed in over 100 countries Follow US: Twitter @maravipost Facebook Page : maravipost Instagram: maravipost    
Raphael Tenthani
Raphael Tenthani
Raphael (Ralph) Tenthani (1 October 1971 - 16 May 2015) was a freelance journalist from Malawi. Tenthani was a BBC correspondent and a columnist for The Sunday Times. He was a respected journalist in Malawi well known for his popular column, "The Muckraking".[3][4] He was well known for providing political analysis on topical issues. He had been the subject of controversy for his candid reporting on political issues. He was very critical of the crackdown on journalism during the Bingu wa Mutharika administration. He was also a columnist for Associated Press, Pan African News Agency, and The Maravi Post.

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