Sunday, April 12, 2015

Not Gentle Enough: Critiquing Ntata’s Criticism

“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” Frank A. Clark.

MANY a person can critique and thus be called a critic. However, the sad truth is that not all that critique merit to be called such; in fact, it is only those whose criticisms are gentle enough by presenting a balanced dimension of the issue in question merit such a label.

There recently emerged a critic of the Peter Mutharika government—Z Allan Ntata, a (or is it former?) Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) sympathizer. Ntata, a lawyer-cum-politician, has attacked the DPP-led government from all angles, and, so it appears, the Mutharika government is at his mercy at the moment. Central to Ntata’s attack is Peter Mutharika’s supposed ‘puppetry’. It is to this that the article’s attention turns.

In essence, Ntata accuses Peter Mutharika of being a nominal president arguing that real power rests in unnamed State House advisor. That the young Mutharika is indeed a puppet or not should be left to the politicians to politick and to the lawyers to lawyer on; for us critics, and this be emphasized, the concern here is whether or not Ntata’s accusations are gentle enough.

Are Ntata’s accusations of Mutharika’s supposed puppetry gentle enough? It appears not. Ntata was himself in the remote and recent past a puppet of the current president especially in the run up to the general election. Ntata, as Tenthani rightly observes, “…used any available art form—be it music, video or prose—to beat up all those who stood in the way of his dear party’s one-way ticket back to state house.” And who was the torchbearer for his dear party? Peter Mutharika of course!

Then Ntata did not flinch in defending Peter Mutharika as a visionary leader with solid education background. He had been a staunch defender of Mutharika’s leadership potential all through the campaign period till the sweet days of the election victory. Ntata was the right hand man in the DPP, and a strategist to boot. Should we say, honestly that is, that Ntata, by his puppetry accusation, is simply confessing to Malawians that he did not know that he was defending a Mutharika who is incapable of controlling the affairs of this noble republic on his own volition and direction? The answer is most certainly negative. Ntata knew Mutharika that well, as a strategist, that he was a man worth the Malawi presidency. If he actually knew of Mutharika’s puppetry, then Ntata is nothing but an unpatriotic liar who let Malawians be in the hands of a puppet.

But if he really knew Peter Mutharika as a capable man for the presidency then, why accuse him of being a puppet of some unelected advisor today? Frustration; yes, the answer is Ntata is frustrated to the core for not being ‘accordingly’ rewarded by the DPP government. Surely, Ntata is on a mission—a mission he has betted his life on—to prove to the Mutharika camp that he is a strategist who makes and breaks what he makes. For he made (read ‘helped with’) the DPP-led government’s entry strategy he would equally make its exit strategy, and the puppetry accusation and all that jazz are sure evidence of the exit strategy in motion. Here Ntata, as Chiipira Wachaje points, is a “Commando” in action. Unlike the Commandos in films however, the Commandos in politics rarely succeed in aiming high-value targets, and truth be told here, this Commando that is Ntata here will, spoiler alert, miserably fail in his aiming for high-value target that is Mutharika.

And why will Comando Ntata fail here? It’s because it is all clear to almost every well-meaning Malawian that he is making this noise simply to be heard by the DPP government. It therefore makes perfect sense to take such a person and their statements with a pinch of salt. In all honesty, Malawians are not that naïve as to fail to realize that he is deliberately arousing public discontentment to get back at DPP.

In the end, however, there are two alternatives; either Ntata did not know that Mutharika is a puppet and is therefore telling the truth or knew that Mutharika is/ isn’t a puppet and is therefore telling lies. Between the two, the latter seems plausible because, being a strategist that he is, Ntata ought to have known that Mutharika is a puppet. But he did not notice the puppetry in Mutharika because Mutharika is not a puppet. Which is why it is tempting to conclude, as does this article, that Ntata wants to get back at his erstwhile friends—the DPP. So, whatever it is he thinks DPP owns him, he shouldn’t drag Malawians into fighting his personal battles.

So next time Ntata, and all other critics, want to criticize this or any government—present or past, let them do justice to Frank A. Clark by making sure that their criticisms, like rain, are “gentle enough” to aid citizens’ objective assessment without destroying the same. Otherwise Ntata’s criticisms of DPP-led government are not doing Malawians any justice as are personal and not gentle enough as to nourish Malawians’ objective assessment of the government of the day.



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