As I wrote yesterday, power is dependent on the subject of it: if the subject of the power holder is not submissive, the power usually crumbles. If the power holder attempts to use violence, the perpetrators of the violence need to follow orders. If they don’t, the power disappears, and often turns against the power holder. But the nature of power is even more elusive than this. We know knowledge is power. That is the reason the ruling class has been obstructing the Access to Information Bill (ATI). The access to information will shift some of the power from the ruling class to the citizen accessing the information. And some of the ruling class may have skeletons in the closet that they want to keep secret. Having access to this information will give the citizen power over the person who may have committed a crime in office. This is still pretty straight forward. But the relationship between power and knowledge is even more complex:
The power holder defines what is knowledge and what is not (defined as superstition or something equivalent). For instance, when confronted with the cost of taking over one hundred people to the UN assembly in New York, His Excellency, the State President, Professor, Arthur Peter Mutharika shouted: “This nonsense has to stop!”. Notice that he did not yell: “This has to stop!” He used the word “nonsense”. He defined factual information as nonsense to underline his authority over fact and fiction. This is an old habit. Bingu complained that the press published facts that he did not want published (like a bridge collapsing or a photo of the sign of the Mugabe Highway removed) Again he wanted fact obscured, to underline his power.
Another example: in the 5 December Weekend Nation, Leader of the House Francis Kasaila answers a question about bulldozing bills with: “That’s far from the truth.” He asserts the authority to define the truth, and defines the oppositions position as “far from the truth”. A little later in the same answer he states: “We are there to determine.” Again the assertion that he can ‘determine” and the opposition or anyone else cannot.
This type of claim on the truth is typical for authorities who dismiss accountability. We need to be vigilant in all claims of truth from authorities, we need to be very careful in accepting claims. We need to problematise existing situations, and not accept any claims in the area of: It is like that in other countries.
We need to demand accountability for the whole state of the nation, and for the way things are done, even when they are presented by authorities as self evident.