In spite of Raphael Tenthani’s tenuous an sometimes inflammatory attempts to vindicate the treason case that was brought on the current President and some of his supporters by the Joyce Banda’s administration in 2012, President Peter Mutharika’s assertion that the “Treason case was stupid” is not without merit.
In his article, Tenthani makes a gallant effort of pithily commenting on the political crisis that allegedly almost took place in Malawi following the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika in April 2012 as tantamount to the very definition of treason, dismissing the President’s remarks as misguided, while rather impolitely making quite inaccurate and impolite comments on what took place that fateful April day.
Tenthani’s scornful and irreverent treatise may be a commendable demonstration of the freedom of expression prevailing in Malawi, yet, it is also a critical demonstration of the lack of objective thinking that has sometimes beleaguered our journalists, who because of personal and sometimes partisan influences, end up betraying the motherland and ensuring that to the global community, Africa continues to be presented in a less than ideal light.
For instance, Tenthani’s very subjective examination of the Singini report fails to appreciate the political factors surrounding the formation and the selection of the members of the Commission of Inquiry that produced the report. This is inexcusable because the author is a Malawian and has all the opportunity he could need to investigate these factors before writing his commentary. Does Mr Tenthani not know that the Chairman of the Commission, Justice Elton Singing is a close relative of the infamous Ephrain Mganda Chiume, who is a close confidant of President Joyce Banda and was her Minister of Foreign Affairs, having been Minister of Justice at the relevant time? The Singini Report went out of its way to protect Chiume from any appearance of wrongdoing and went as far as citing his actions as commendable and instrumental to averting the political crisis, in spite of the evidence that it was in fact Chiume, as minister of justice, who was first on the scene in instructing the Attorney General and other government lawyers to take out an injunction that would prevent Joyce Banda from ascending to the presidency.
The relationship between Justice Singini and Chiume, and Chiume’s significant influence in the Joyce Banda Administration is a factor that must be taken into account when considering the legal and political implications of the report. It is my assertion that the first demonstration of the stupidity of the treason case is in the fact that Ephrain Chiume was not charged. Was it because he had joined the then ruling PP when the charges were leveled against Mutharika and others?
Furthermore, almost all Malawians know that the commission was composed almost in its entirety of individuals that had had less than happy times with the previous DPP led, Mutharika administration. These inner workings of Malawian politics have an important bearing on the tone and the thrust of the Singini Report. Curiously it appears that Mr Tenthani has decided to ignore these points in defending the treason case.
In another instance, while making a worthwhile recognition of the fact that the political crisis stemmed from self-exclusion of the vice president from the government after she was fired from the then ruling Democratic Progressing Party, and the subsequent confusion caused by her formation of her own party, Tenthani seems to be unaware of the fact that there was at the time of Mutharika’s death a constitutional referral matter made by late Bingu wa Mutharika asking the Malawian Constitutional court to interpret the constitution on the apparent resignation of the vice-president, which Mutharika considered had manifested itself through Joyce Banda’s conduct of excluding herself from all government operations and the formation of her own party. Surely Tenthani should know that this matter, duly certified by the constitutional court as having merit and worthy of inquiry, played an important role in the transition process and was the basis for the notion that was considered by the attorney general of challenging the succession in the courts.
Furthermore, what does Mr Tenthani make of the Minister of Justice who was issuing the instructions; and what does he say about the other members of the Joyce Banda cabinet who at the time, being ministers also, were part of the meetings that agreed on the instructions that were given to Chiume to get the wheels of the judicial processes spinning?
Demonstrably then, Tenthani’s article is yet another example of the dangers of partisan journalism. Such pop journalism easily fails to live by its creed and eagerly overlooks for instance, the fact that after the release of the report, members of the Commission were quickly given lucrative government positions. Joseph Aironi, a member of that commission, was brought back from his retirement to become Joyce Banda’s Director of National Intelligence. Jabar Alide, another member of the commission was appointed as Executive Director at the Millennium Challenge Corporation by Joyce Banda. Did it come as a coincidence to Mr Tenthani, for example, that a pathologist who implicated the DPP administration in the alleged killing of a university student in an earlier inquiry was also selected in the inquiry in reference?
As a weekly irreverent commentary on contemporary politics with a heavy partisan touch Tenthani’s article certainly entertains. However, as a commentary on the events surrounding the so-called near political crisis that could have happened in Malawi after the death on Late Bingu wa Mutharika, the article is yet another example of the need for journalistic integrity and knowledge, and the importance of a commentary based on perceptions that are grounded private or partisan influences.