By Duncan Mlanjira
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Malawi Chapter has said Deputy Minister of Transport and Public Works Honourable Charles Mchacha has apologised for using vulgar and offensive language to insult Nation Publications Limited (NPL) journalist Bobby Kabango.
Mchacha was at the centre of controversy on social media last week following his use of the offensive and vulgar language to insult the Kabango, who was simply investigating the sale of government land at Kanjedza Forest in Limbe, in the Deputy Minster benefitted.
“Honourable Mchacha used all sorts of swearwords in a recorded phone conversation with Mr. Kabango, who was pursuing a story on how the Deputy Minister allegedly acquired public land in Limbe, Blantyre,” says a statement from MISA Malawi president Teresa Temweka Ndanga.
“On Tuesday, February 11, 2020, Honourable Mchacha went to NPL offices in Blantyre to apologise for his behaviour. Honourable Mchacha apologised in the presence of MISA Malawi National Governing Council (NGC) member Mandy Pondani, Human Rights Consultative Committee (HRCC) Chair Robert Mkwezalamba and NPL officials.”
The MISA Malawi statement said during the meeting, Mchacha said he respects journalists and appreciates the role the media plays in a democracy and that both Kabango and NPL Deputy Chief Executive Officer Alfred Ntonga accepted the apology.
“It was sad that we failed to understand each other and handle the situation well. So, I am here to apologise to my friend [Bobby] and the entire Nation management for the words I uttered to Bobby Kabango,” Mchacha is quoted as saying.
MISA Malawi quotes Pondani as appealing to the minister, other ministers and government officials to be exemplary and uphold and respect human rights, including media freedom and freedom of expression.
“You hold senior public positions and your conduct should befit those positions,” Pondani is quoted as saying. “As journalists, we also work to promote public good and we want to feel safe when doing our work.
“It’s intimidating and scary when senior government officials attack instead of protecting us,” Pondani is quoted as saying.
When the recorded clip went viral and attracted condemnation from the public, MISA Malawi wrote Mchacha demanding a public apology.
MISA Malawi also says it asked Minister of Information, Honourable Mark Botomani, to disassociate government from Mchacha’s conduct and assure the nation that his actions were not a reflection of government policy to threaten and intimidate journalists working to uphold principles of transparency and accountability in a nation whose constitution guarantees media freedom.
“Honourable Mchacha’s actions were a violation of media freedom and freedom of expression and could be construed as government attempts to silence journalists in the country,” Ndanga said.
Initially, Mchacha, who is Member of Parliament and is also Southern Region Governor for the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), told Maravi Express that he spoke that way to Kabango as Mchacha the person, not as a Minister or MP.
He faulted those who circulated the recorded conversation as being people not wishing him well and decided to use the media to expose him over a transaction he claims was legitimately carried out between himself and the Ministry of Lands.
In the conversation Kabango had remained composed and calm throughout.