When I first read on the social media that the President was going to sue his prime critic, Allan Ntata, I thought it was only a hoax. I just could not fathom that the president would actually do that. But when the mainstream media finally confirmed the case yesterday on July 26 2015, I was very disappointed. I was however not really surprised because the current DPP government specialises in unreasonable decisions and setting priorities upside down.
According to the Nation Newspaper, the President is suing Ntata alongside Nyasatimes online publication for defamation following an article which Ntata wrote and Nyasatimes published implicating Mutharika in the MWK 92 billion Cash-gate. Just to ensure that we are on the same page, defamation is briefly and generally a false statement, written or spoken that injures the reputation of another person. Therefore, in this case, the president is lamenting that Ntata and Nyasatimes have injured his reputation.
Now, by seeking the intervention of the court to protect himself from the defamers, the president has done nothing legally wrong. But politically, he has defamed himself even more, and here are the reasons why:
First: He is the Head of State. There is no head of state in the world who does not feel the temptation to sue a citizen for defamation. All presidents are once in a while offended with lies and or negative publicity in the media that injures their reputation. But they do not sue their own people because they understand that when you are a head of state, it is your duty and responsibility to endure insults, and shoulder the blame for the suffering and poverty of everyone. So they focus on running government and ignore insults and lies against them.
Second: Ntata and Nyasatimes did not defame the president. When Ntata and Nyasatimes published the story that implicated the President in the MWK 92 billion DPP cash-gate, I recall very well, that the story had already been released by other individuals and media operators. Therefore, if the President needed to sue somebody, he should have sued those that broke the story, not those that wrote about it later. Otherwise, I feel the only legitimate lawsuit should have been filed by individuals and media operators that first broke the story against Ntata and Nyasatimes for plagiarism. The president’s lawsuit is therefore not legitimate enough after all he is suing the wrong parties.
Third: There is no evidence of defamation. The audit report on the DPP MWK92 billion has not yet been released and it is not even finished. Nobody knows for certain whether the president is involved in the fraud or not. Therefore, it does not make sense to assert that the story Ntata and Nyasatimes “re-published” was false when the final report is not yet out to vindicate those implicated in the media.
Fourth: The president must set his priorities right. APM needs to understand that Malawians are scared and worried about his leadership. The country is going through tough times, and there are tougher times ahead. Hospitals have no medicine and food, citizens are getting murdered, there is not water and electricity, civil servants need timely salaries, the Kwacha is depreciating, people have no jobs and no businesses, hunger is threatening following poor harvests etc…Therefore, the people of Malawi need to see that the president is doing something about these most important challenges of national interest, not getting critics to court.
Fifth: The people protect the president not the court. The President must understand that in a democracy, even the courts cannot protect his leadership from voices of discontent and criticism. His mandate to govern is vested in the wishes of the people of Malawi, and they can overthrow his government even with the courts and the police on his side.
It was the people that protected Bingu from section 65 and impeachment between 2005 and 2008, and it was the people of Malawi, that supported PP and Joyce Banda to takeover government when Bingu died. Bingu was on the wrong side of the Law between 2005 and 2008, and DPP needed to have continued as the ruling party after the death of Bingu in 2012, but the wishes of the people in a democracy are above the courts in times of crisis.
Therefore, Mutharika must focus on winning the love and trust of the people, and his critics will stand in shame.
Six: The lawsuit is suspicious. In the Lawsuit, the President wants the court to restrain Ntata and Nyasatimes from further publishing articles on the MWK 92 billion cash-gate. The problem with this injunction is that it raises too much suspicion because Ntata already declared that he is investigating the cash-gate and will release a report entitled, “From a Looting to a Kill: A Legacy of Institutionalized Corruption in Malawi .” Therefore, it is warranted to suspect that government is scared of the Ntata’s report, and wish to prevent him from proceeding with it.
Finally, the president must focus on running government and learn to ignore critics especially when he knows they are lying. His reputation cannot be damaged by lies fabricated by his critics because in the end, Malawians will judge his leadership by the works of his hands. That is why Bingu said, “Let the works of my hands speak for me.”