Gregory Gondwe, Malawi Best Blogger 2014

Thursday, 6 August 2009

A ‘Holier than Though’ Vocation?

The hunger that has hit Malawi this year has shown us the other face of humanity. I don’t know if this has to do with the human propensity to survive or mere greed, but man is sometimes in conflict with the spirit of compassion.
What was set to provide for the poor has turned out to be a lucrative business enriching the ‘haves’ and leaving the ‘have-nots’ reeling, with nothing but resentment at what they perceived to be government‘s failure.
What has been happening is that all the maize that could be stockpiled in our ADMARC markets would disappear in full view of the helpless needy the moment it had been offloaded from the 30 tonne trucks.
If it were not the truck of the Malawi Defence Force or the police carrying away this much needed maize supposed to be bought by the poor, then some big political gun or rich bugger would bring a truck that would perform a similar horrendous task – taking away what the people so desperately need.
The scenario has been the same with the fertiliser subsidy. The purchasing process for the poor seemed easy; it only needed one peasant farmer to produce a coupon, plus the prescribed amount before getting the commodity. But woe is me; to the contrary, the poor were abused and robbed by the gluttonous system.
The hunger has done an injustice to the poor who have become poorer while the rich have even gained much more. Pity, not much though has been reported in the media.
You would think that maybe the silence on the part of the media is as a result of official sources that had clammed up tight and were not willing to expose the story, either because they benefited from the financial wherewithal …or they feared for their jobs.
However, I witnessed something that involved some media personnel who also wanted to buy some bags of fertiliser in the most unorthodox manner I have ever witnessed in these recent times.
Some poor subsistence farming, for close to a week had slept at the market where the commodity was being sold. While their patience was wearing thin, seeing that their queue was still snaking outward, there was another group which would arrive and leave them in the queue, enter into the market and, lo and behold - two minutes later start loading fertiliser in their trucks. They would then leave almost as soon as they arrived.
One such unfortunate day I happened to be passing close to one of the markets and briefly stopped to greet an acquaintance who, upon spotting me called to me, as he wanted us to exchange pleasantries.
It was right at that time that I noticed a renown media figure supervising the loading of fertiliser bags in one bluish two-ton-Toyota truck which was standing close to where I was. I moved closer, and the profession colleague noticed me and started explaining boastfully to me how he had managed to get his fingers on the spoils without much ado.
“I discovered that there was too much corruption going on around here in the way people were buying fertiliser. I just flashed my ID and everybody started shaking. I was taken inside where I made my ‘transaction’ over a cup of coffee like a king. Now, here I am about to leave when I have only been here for less than twenty minutes,” boasted the media chap.
The acquaintance I had greeted told me after the media colleague had left that the real reason he had called me was to seek a favour from me - to do it the way my colleague had done, but for him.
“You know, he only had to say he was going to reveal what was happening here and after he produced his ID he was promptly assisted, please help me also.”
But when I looked at the people, some looking helplessly weak standing, sitting and squatting in what looked like a queue, I had this visceral unease.
I thought it was not fair to go the way my acquaintance suggested, especially when it later turned out that the holier-than-though attitude my journalist colleague had put on display was because he had managed to get his hands on the last stock and the rest of the poverty-stricken needy were told to come back on another day.
I had a minute or two, first of shock, and then horror to grasp the enormity of what was happening before my very eyes.
Questions started coming and I am still wondering if this journalism vocation is all what it needs to be and for us to use it to bully others into getting personal favours for oneself?
Most media people seem to be constipated with self-importance in or outside their line of duty. Is it no wonder these days that every Jack and Jill thinks they can jump onto the bandwagon and start behaving in such a despicable manner?
I thought the usage of ebullience as opposed to threats is how we create sources? What is this then or do we learn a different art of journalism in different institutions that we attend. Or is it still the question of the absence of the Media Council of Malawi unable to prevail on our sense of ethics and professionalism?
There is a character in Arthur Hailey’s Book ‘The Evening News’ who is warning another character about the danger of thinking that writers or reporters are something special.
“They are not, although they sometimes believe they are and get exaggerated ideas about their own importance. The fact is; there is never a shortage of writers. Cut one down, two more spring up like weeds,” so goes the challenge of this character.
I don’t want to render a verdict but my question is: Do we really need to use our profession to carry favour, get good turns, extraordinary benefits, et cetera?

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