A satirical video, deriding purported failures of the administration of President Joyce Banda, is recording thousands of hits on the Internet prompting government to investigate its origins.
Created by someone calling himself The Chief Mourner, the video clip – a montage of published cartoons, newspaper cuttings and pictures – chronicles the economic woes Malawians are facing since Banda took over in April following the sudden death of her predecessor President Bingu wa Mutharika. It claims that Malawians can no longer afford decent meals and are resorting to surviving on bonya (small usipa – lake sardines).
As a result, the Chief Mourner further claims, Malawians have resigned to fate and are now just drinking beer.
Government spokesman Moses Kumkuyu says government is aware of the clip and warned that although Malawians enjoy freedom of expression and speech they have to be responsible.
“People have the right to free speech but we also have to look at the office we are attacking,” he said. “The President’s office is a protected one; it’s not about Joyce Banda, it’s the office.”
Kumkuyu, who is Minister of Information and Civic Education, described the video – entitled ‘Malawi Say No To Recycled Politicians in 2014′ on the video-sharing site, YouTube – as illegal because it has not been certified by the Malawi Classification Board.
“Circulating unregulated videos is illegal because, by law, any video has to go through the Malawi Classification Board before being circulated,” he said.
He indicated that government was interested to find out the origins of the clip. He, however, did not say what would happen to the creator if uncovered.
But sources say Allan Ntata – the former legal advisor of the late Mutharika – is the creator of the video clip because he has been writing under The Chief Mourner nom de plume. Ntata, currently residing in the United Kingdom, did not respond to queries sent to his e-mail and Facebook accounts.
Nonetheless The Chief Mourner himself could neither deny nor confirm that he was Ntata. He said via a facebook interview that The Chief Mourner is an artistic personality who is motivated by art to speak about matters of concern in creative ways he believes will be effective.
“All the clip is doing is expressing the truth through information (song and pictures) that are all in the public domain,” he said.
The Chief Mourner said he is not afraid of arrest over the video clip or his other writings.
“One only fears arrest when one has committed an offence,” he said. “Neither the Chief Mourner nor his creator has committed any offence. I have received many threats over the writings of the Chief Mourner and over the video clip but I am unconcerned as I know my rights and I am only exercising my freedom of expression.”
He said he was not in hiding but was outside Malawi doing post-graduate studies.
Asked whether he was not being unfair on the Banda administration over the economic downturn because it inherited an economy on the free-fall, The Chief Mourner said: “I disagree that the economic downturn is all due to Bingu’s policies. Joyce Banda claimed to have turned things around when she celebrated her first 100 days in office. She can’t blame Bingu now – what was she celebrating about then? She is failing to deal with the challenges of governing and if things were bad during Bingu’s time, she has made them worse by her own policy decisions.”