Malawi: DPP Apology to Catholic Church Serve As a Lesson - Malawi Politicians Told to Guard Their Tongues

29 August 2018

The apology from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) to the Catholic Church over remarks by its deputy director of youth Hophmally Makande on Sunday dragging head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis, into local politics dominated local press headlines on Wednesday as two Malawi dailies urged politicians to guard their tongues.

During a maiden rally Minister of Local Government and Rural Development Kondwani Nankhumwa addressed in his capacity as DPP vice-president (Southern Region), Makande attacked critics who argue that President Peter Mutharika, 79, should retire due to old age and pave the way for younger leaders. He said if Mutharika is old and not fit to lead, the same should apply to the Pope who is 82.

The DPP has apologised for the "retrogressive, inappropriate and disrespectful" remarks and Makande has also said sorry and withdrew the statement.

As part of the detailed coverage, The Nation and Daily Times newspapers have carried editorials on the matter.

Both daily papers have applauded the DPP for gathering courage to issue the apology.

However, the two newspapers have urged politicians to stop inflammatory language and that this should be a "turning point" towards transformation politics that is issue-based and not petty personality attacks.

In an editorial titled " Tame your tongues, politicians', the Daily Times pointed out that much as everyone has the liberty to express their views on various issues, politicians must be particularly careful about what comes out of their mouths.

"Malawi is best known for the peaceful co-existence of its people regardless of their political and religious leanings and this should not be traumatised by reckless politicians who, in a bid to please their feeders and masters, throw their senses to the winds," reads the editorial in part.

It observed that Makande might have simply expressed his views but he was supposed to be cautious enough to know that they would not go down well with others.

"This is a wake-up call to people who use political podia to spew senseless sentiments which can injure others. They must tame their tongues," the paper said.

Another editorial by The Nation titled 'Politicians, mind your language' said the ruling DPP should lead by example and ensure that what applies to Pope Francis is also applied to all and sundry.

The paper observed that DPP has let its high ranking officials attack others willy-nilly.

It noted that DPP regional governor (South) Charles Mchacha recently launched a personal attack on United Transformation Movement (UTM) secretary general Patricia Kaliati while DPP secretary general Grezelder Jeffrey wa Jeffrey described the opposition as "akuba ndi agalu [thieves and dogs]" The two attacks and others were made in the presence of President Peter Mutharika.

The President has also been faulted for using language with the potential to fuel violence such as "ndikunyenyanyenyani [I will break you into pieces]" and "I will drop on you like a tonne of bricks".

The editorial said politicians across the divide should understand and accept that in 1993 through a national referendum, Malawians voted for multiparty politics.

"Democracy means tolerating dissenting views and using decent language to put across a point," The paper wrote.

It stated that politicians should guard against their tongues and focus on issues instead of personalities, especially this time when the country is moving towards the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.

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