Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Inside Malawi’s withdrawal of Thoko Banda as ambassador to Zimbabwe – a PR perspective

In an interview with state broadcaster, MBC TV, on Tuesday, 3rd November, Malawi’s Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs Dr George Chaponda made remarks that suggested, explicitly and implicitly, that President Peter Mutharika did not have enough information about Mr Thoko Banda who was recently appointed to represent Malawi in a diplomatic mission to Zimbabwe.

Mr Thoko Banda has since declined the offer, following media revelations that in 2006, he described Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe ‘an idiot’ and a ‘horrible’ man.

From media reports, Mr Banda does not deny having described Mr Mugabe as such. He has even gone to tell the BBC that he cannot represent Malawi in a country that has a dented human rights record. Read the whole story on http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29883701.

Well, a discussion around that is not within the TOR of this post but is not unworthy.

Our interest is on the Foreign Affairs Minister’s remarks. Let us look at this: A state president makes an appointment without gathering adequate information about the prospective diplomat. If true, that in itself is a goof. It suggests someone in the Office of the President and Cabinet did not do their job well. That someone has done a big disservice to the president and to the nation as a whole. The president, I understand, cannot go around scouring for information about candidates for certain positions to serve in Government. He relies on his team to do this kind of work for him so that he can make decisions on our behalf.

Now, that someone failed to do their job is bad enough and should invoke the President’s rethink of the caliber of the people serving him in his office. But to have a cabinet Minister make this revelation in the media is unthinkable, a PR malaise, if I can put it that way.

Why couldn’t Government PR team admit it was an oversight to appoint Mr Banda to represent Malawi in Zimbabwe in view of his remarks about that country’s president without saying the President did not have enough information about the candidate? I know some readers cannot help but be confused by what I am saying here.

The thing is: It is one thing to admit you did not know about a candidate you preferred but went on to give him a job and it is completely another to say you overlooked one element that has turned out to be crucial. The former suggests that you do not know how to do your job. The latter, on the other hand, is an indication that you admit you are only human and certain things can skip your good professional judgement. That can earn you a plus with regard to building your reputation as a CEO and that root would not be unethical which is one thing PR practitioners should always be concerned about. That is how I look at it, anyway.

Having said that, my final thought is that Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr George Chaponda should have sought proper advice on how to convey the message of Government’s withdrawal of Mr Thoko Banda as Malawi’s diplomatic rep to Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. What are your views on the matter?

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Awakening reflections by a Communication Practitioner

During the many months I have not updated this blog I have encountered so many PR/ Communication  situations worth discussing and reflecting on.

The remaining two months of the year will be used to bring the different experiences, both pleasant and not so pleasant, to PR Space.