Hildegarde The Arena
THE Republic of Malawi has another Mutharika, just as there have been two Bandas in office.
Newly-elected President Arthur Peter Mutharika, is brother to the late President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died in office on April 5, 2012.
However, Malawi’s founding president Ngwazi Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda, was no relation of Mutharika’s predecessor, Joyce Banda.
Kamuzu Banda’s party, the Malawi Congress Party led by Reverend Lazarus Chakwera nearly clinched the top post in the 2014 elections.
It is now the official opposition party, followed by Joyce Banda’s People’s Party.
There was also a big possibility that Malawi could have ended up with another Muluzi, since former president Bakili Muluzi’s son, Atupele, was one of the four leading candidates in the May 20 presidential race.
The matrix is also intriguing because the late Bingu wa Mutharika succeeded Bakili Muluzi, and he was hand-picked by the latter as successor.
We might conclude that political dynasties are emerging in Malawi, but the bottom line for this writer is a Malawi which is still finding itself and doing so in its own peculiar way and also choosing its leadership as a united and focused family.
The people of Malawi should also be commended for maintaining peace and tranquillity in the 10-day wait for the announcement of the results of the May 20 presidential, parliamentary and local government elections.
Notwithstanding, it was unfortunate that two lives were lost — former deputy minister of housing — who allegedly took his own life during the vote counting process, and a protester who was killed hours before the results were announced on May 30.
There could have been more tragedies and destruction of property, but in the tightly fought contest, Malawians opted for peace, and it is even encouraging to hear former president Bakili Muluzi, telling his countrymen and women to rally behind the new president to ensure that the desperately needed development is achieved.
That is the spirit that should spur any nation that desires to turn around its fortunes.
President Mutharika, who has vast experience both as law professor and former government minister, takes over the reins of power as Malawi celebrates its Golden Jubilee on July 6.
This is why his inaugural speech resonated on the dawn of a new era for Malawi as it starts working on the next 50 years: “Fifty years ago, in 1964, Malawi was born when we became politically independent. Today, in 2014, we inaugurate the rebirth of our nation.
“We inaugurate the lost dreams of our forefathers and fallen heroes. We inaugurate the spirit of economic independence. We re-launch a new, better, stronger, proud nation once more. The pursuit of our dreams knows no limits, no boundaries, no skies. Our only problem is the way we think. The only barrier to our national achievement is our belief in others at our expense. We know that no nation was created poor by God. No nation has license to bury its naturally endowed treasure: No country can call itself poor.
“Today, my fellow country men and women, we declare ourselves ready for the next fifty years. Today we get new faith and belief in ourselves. Today we begin the road to a coherent nation of achievers”, said President Mutharika in his inaugural address on June 2.
President Mutharika also takes over the reins of power when Malawi is the current chair of the regional bloc sadc.
This is a major responsibility considering the numerous challenges that the region faces and he told the region and international community at his inauguration: “Malawi will continue being a good and trusted partner on the international scene. We remain committed to the ideals of sadc, Comesa, African Union, the UN and other international organisations where Malawi is a member”.
Unity of purpose is an important ingredient in moving any nation forward.
It was notable that President Mutharika extended an olive branch to his contenders.
We sincerely hope that his government will see an end to the politics of retribution.
We also take former president Joyce Banda’s word to allow Malawi to move on and that this type of politics should be emulated by sadc and the rest of the continent.
President Mutharika committed his administration to uphold the letter and spirit of the rule of law and of accountability when he told the people: “In service to the nation, I will not tolerate one day more if a cabinet minister or civil servant who takes what does not belong to them. My cabinet shall live up to this principle of being accountable to the people . . . Today, we are launching a government that must be accountable to the people.
“The central principle of democracy is that everyone must be accountable to someone else. The rule of law follows to ensure that we are all accountable to the people and the law.
“We cannot afford to waste time with plundering public resources. We have urgent work to do. As I have said, our country is on the edge of collapsing. This country is dying. Organs of government departments are in a state of paralysis.
“The veins of the economy in the private sector and businesses are paralysed. The cost of living is no longer affordable by many anymore.
“We cannot even afford to heal those in pain because there is no medicine in our hospitals. It is time to get this country functioning again. And we have no time to waste”, he said.
With such a laundry list of urgent issues to attend to, there is no room for the politics of retribution. Malawi has to start the next lap of another Golden Jubilee on a clean slate. Indeed, politics is a dirty game, but the world will watch to see whether the new administration will live up to its promises.
For, the events of April 2012, should not be allowed to repeat themselves.
When President Joyce Banda was sworn in, Malawi Today reported that she “assured the nation that there was no room for revenge. She offered the conciliatory words following two days of political scheming in which former President Bingu wa Mutharika’s inner circle tried to block her assuming the presidency.
President Banda in April 2012 said, “I want all of us to move into the future with hope and with that spirit of oneness and unity”, adding that “I just sincerely hope that there is no room for revenge. I just sincerely hope that we shall stand united.”
Patricia Kaliati, who was information minister then and one of the alleged rebel ministers who included the new president, seemed to concur with President Banda when she said, “It was a confusing time for us and we made wrong decisions. I take the blame as minister of information. When the president (Banda) called for the cabinet meeting, we presented the issue to her and she accepted our apology. We appreciate the motherly heart that she has shown.”
But the dismissals that followed and the treason charges that were levelled against some of them are clear evidence that the public pronouncements were nothing but playing to the gallery.
Despite the actions taken, how does one interpret the apology by then senior Minister of Local Government Henry Mussa on Zodiak Broadcasting Services: “I would like to apologise to the president, Mrs Joyce Banda, all Malawians and the world at large for being part of the panel of the April 6 midnight Press briefing. When I sit down and reflect on that Press briefing, I really feel ashamed. It was as if I had been bewitched or driven by some unknown force to be there but what we did on that night was very wrong and illegal.”
This has no place in the new Malawi considering that the international community endorsed the May 20 elections, despite the myriad challenges it faced.
Malawi should set its eyes on moving on together with the region and continent!