English mutes MPs


t is undeniable that English is not a measure of intelligence, but just an official language in the country.

However, speaking English well enough to participate in lawmaking is a prerequisite for anyone vying for a parliamentary seat.

The debate over our colonial masters’ language has been reignited by a leaked video clip of Machinga South East legislator Fyness Magonjwa hilariously mishandling the Queen’s language.

The interview granted by the country’s youngest parliamentarian has  been met with vehement disapproval from those who question her English proficiency.

This is not surprising. The country’s laws require members of Parliament (MPs) to demonstrate fluency in spoken English.

But MPs core duty is to make laws, not to speak English better than William Shakespeare.

As such, they need to appreciable fluency in the official language to articulate their contribution to the legislature with no shame.

But alas, most MPs in the 193-seat House are disasters waiting to happen.

Some of the legislators hardly open their mouths to avoid exposing themselves to the embarrassment the size suffered by the 24-year-old.

They cannot read, write or comprehend important documents in their line of duty.

How can they enact laws likely to benefit their citizenry when they themselves hardly understand what is on the table?

How do you expect MPs to take part in a healthy discussion when they cannot express themselves faultlessly in a minute?

Are we surprised when MPs doze off during deliberations and only wake up to clap for mediocrity.

Yet, these MPs belong to different committees with a huge responsibility to represent the country in international meetings.

Just how do they sustain a conversation in the preferred business language if they cannot hold a minute-long discussion in a language every learner in the country’s school learns?

How do they justify and lobby for projects in our country?

Some may argue that there is no problem as long as hearers can grasp out what one is communicating.

Wait a minute. What is communication if one cannot fully express and explain an idea clearly?. 

MPs hold a vital legislative, legal, administrative position that requires the seriousness it deserves.

It is not an issue of just being elected to Parliament but rather positively contributing to their respective constituencies and State business.

The country will not develop unless Malawians start electing MPs who can flawlessly articulate transformative ideas in the House of records and big decisions.

The country does not need people bootlick their party leaders and rubber-stamp bills due to shortfalls in the official language.

This is not to demean or discourage the young MP, but to call for sound debate in the National Assembly.

 Many MPs in the house have big ideas but cannot take to the microphone because they think in their mother tongue and fail to convert their thoughts to English.

Others are afraid of being trolled for making silly mistakes.

Of course, Malawi is no longer a British protectorate.

We may have embraced the British language in almost all business spheres, but maybe time is nigh MPs lobbied for the introduction of vernacular language in conducting businesses.

This is usually met with heavy rejection by those who believe no language is superior to others,  but it would be better if MPs comfortably express themselves in a national language instead of keeping mum

Some of our neighbours, including Tanzania and South Africa, have chosen to communicate in their languages during parliamentary deliberations.

I believe translating legislators’ utterances into correct English is the duty of the clerks.

English is not a measure of intelligence, but messing up the Queen’s language is not a sign of ignorance.

It is time Parliament recognised mother tongues to close the gaps in legislators’ flirtations with English. n

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