Thursday, July 17, 2008

Who interviews Hetherwick Ntaba?

There is a secretary-general of a certain political party in a certain country that adopted multiparty democracy last month, 15 years ago. There is also a certain public broadcaster that carries what it calls interviews of that certain secretary-general.

Well, let me use names. Dr Hetherwick Ntaba, the secretary-general of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is still a powerful speaker although not as powerful as years ago. One United Democratic Front (UDF) official once described Ntaba as "amuna omwe amati akaima mu Parliament, if tonse mmimba chururururu" meaning Ntaba was an eloquent opposition MP who shook the government side in Parliament.

That Ntaba is different from the one we have today. It seems Ntaba is better at attacking than defending. And it seems true of Nicholas Dausi.

But the matter today is on radio interviews Ntaba gives state broadcaster MBC. This is a familiar situation because it goes like this, almost always: "The Democratic Progressive Party has dismissed/refuted/denied/described the opposition parties as..... The DPP’s secretary-general spoke with MBC."

Next comes Ntaba speaking. He still uses long, complex sentences and the punctuation can be heard. He has maintained his eloquence on sentence construction. What he has lost is the ability to attack tactfully as he did years ago.

He refutes and attacks the opposition as long as he can. No question, no journalist. Who interviews Ntaba? Is there a journalist at all? I don’t know. If there was one there would have been one or two questions. Or am I being unnecessarily inquisitive?

In the absence of a concrete answer, Ntaba leaves people to assume that he has a recorder at home and records himself at home or office. So, imagine this: The secretary-general is enjoying a well-deserved siesta on a Sunday afternoon. He has just had a three course meal. Then his phone rings. The DPP Treasurer-general calls, saying there is some bad news from opposition parties on some radio stations. Immediately Ntaba wakes up, tunes in to the radio and by chance, he listens to the item.

He thinks for a few minutes and gets his recorder and speaks into it as much as he can and calls some MBC boss to send a reporter to collect the tape for broadcast. Now in that situation how does MBC put across the news item?

The practical way is to say Ntaba spoke with MBC. But honestly, this is a professional dilemma and I sympathise with friends at MBC. But what can they do?

Or picture this one: Ntaba does not have a recorder at home but when he has an issue to refute/deny/attack and all that he calls MBC and a reporter rushes to Ntaba’s office. "Sit here," says Ntaba. "Thank you, Sir," responds the reporter from MBC. The youngman or woman from MBC sets his machine and Ntaba is recorded. He speaks for as long as he can and once through asks the reporter to play the tape or real or whatever so that he listens. Satisfied, he dismisses the reporter in peace.

If not any of the two assumptions, then I don’t know. These are just assumptions out of curiosity. Perhaps Ntaba may wish to change tactics, to speak and be asked questions since that makes communication complete. Language is by nature a two-person business. There should be a speaker and listener, one should speak and another listen. In a moment, there should be an exchange of roles. The speaker should pause to listen. Some free lesson here for Ntaba and some of his colleagues who believe their system is working.

My plain view is that the DPP’s secretary-general has some work to do as far as persuasive communication is concerned. Communication is two way process, Sir, and from your medical background, you should understand this rule. Make it sound like someone is asking you questions, just to give people an illusion that there is some communication going on.

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