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Chapter Five 1999 Post-Elections Period - Leicester Research ...

Chapter Five 1999 Post-Elections Period - Leicester Research ...

131 Assembly concerning

131 Assembly concerning governance and democracy was that the Malawians wanted democracy and that democracy is supposed to benefit the people. The first reference to the MCP being totally self-serving to the extent of wilfully failing to serve the nation was made in parliament on 5 July 1994 by the Minister of Defence, Joseph Kubwalo (1994). This argument was repeated by the Nation three days later on 8 July 1994 in an opinion piece. The Nation then repeated this argument in five subsequent editorials. The Chronicle repeated Kubwalo‟s statements in their editorial on 9 July 1994 and repeated it in three subsequent editorials. In responding to the Leadership Frame, the Nation and the Chronicle also took their cue from the UDF. They argued that, contrary to the MCP and the BNL charge that Muluzi and his government were divisive and inexperienced, Muluzi and his government were humble, popular and democratic. The first reference to this aspect was made by President Muluzi during a press conference: My government has come into office by popular support; we will stay humble as we have always been and we will lead by democratic principles (Moya, 1994, p.1). This aspect of the frame was repeated faithfully in 14 different editorials and opinion pieces by the Nation and the Chronicle. 4.5.2.3 Elite Communicative Space Proceeding from the above, the frames identified in this chapter are an articulation of elite positions on the issues of political contestation, the process of democratisation and definition of nationhood in Malawi. The political elite in both the ruling party and the

132 opposition parties sought to impose these positions on the public sphere through the mediation of the newspapers under their control. By systematically parroting the MCP/AFORD lines on the issue of unity and condemning the ruling UDF at every turn, the Daily Times and the Malawi News mediated the MCP/AFORD alliance‟s version of disunity and image of a nation on the brink of self-destruction on the public sphere. The newspapers consistently criticised the government and the ruling party for refusing to work with the MCP in a government of national unity. On the other hand, the Nation and the Chronicle permitted themselves to act as the new government and the ruling UDF‟s cheerleaders. The two newspapers closely reflected the position of the ruling elite especially in the moral evaluations in the Governance and the Leadership Frames. By systematically excoriating the MCP, the Nation and the Chronicle were simply drinking from the same trough as the ruling elite who were prone to dismiss the opposition concerns “. . . as the ravings of rejected politicians intent on getting back into power through the back door.” (Tukula, 1994). Drawing from the above, the press in Malawi remained institutional partners of the different political parties in the country. This is reflected in the editorial content of the newspapers which, if not altogether derived from political party rhetoric, closely mirrored the same. Such lack of journalistic objectivity could have only been detrimental to the public sphere. It also reflected the bifurcated and belligerent nature of politics at that time. 4.5.3 Summary For optimistic critics such as Chimombo and Chimombo (1996) and Ross (1996), this period heralded a vibrant era of press freedom and rediscovery for its role. Yet the

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