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Professor Peter Mutharika’s unfinished business

By Ajong Mbapndah L, PAV

MUTHARIKA: As you have probably heard, there is an overwhelming demand by the people for me to return to power in 2025.

Faced with a groundswell of calls for him to contest for the 2025 elections in Malawi, former President Prof Peter Mutharika says while he is yet to decide, he is giving serious consideration to the idea.

Ousted under dramatic circumstances following the nullification of elections that had initially proclaimed him winner in 2020, Mutharika’s sense of fair play and statesmanship seem to have endeared him even more to Malawians.

“As you have probably heard, there is an overwhelming demand by the people for me to return to power in 2025. First, people feel I should complete my term that was nullified by the courts in an election that all foreign observers, EU, AU, SADC, Commonwealth, and UN characterized as a “free, fair, and credible.” I am consulting with my family, friends and colleagues and will announce my decision in due course,” says Prof Mutharika in an interview with Pan African Visions.

Prof Mutharika who has maintained leadership of the former ruling Democratic Progressive Party is bracing the party for a stronger showing and possible comeback in 2025. While his fortunes or stock may have grown exponentially since his ouster, his successor President Lazarus Chakwera has found it hard keeping campaign promises.

Painting a dire picture for the country, Prof Mutharika says the economy has collapsed, and the government has absolutely no solutions to the macro-economic instability, high cost of living and growing poverty.

“It is estimated that now 91% of the population is below the poverty line. As a result, there is growing violence, crimes and increasing social disorder. All these have led to a deteriorating security situation in the country. People engaged in peaceful protests have been subjected to imprisonment and physical violence by the state and its agents,” Prof Mutharika says.

In the interview which also talks about the legacy of his first term, ongoing reforms in his party, and the resurgence of military coups across the continent, Prof Mutharika urged African leaders to provide more opportunities for young people, end corruption, and establish economies that serve all its people.

May we know how Prof Mutharika has coped as a private citizen since leaving the Office about three years ago?

President Mutharika: Actually, I am not quite yet a private citizen. I am still President of the former ruling party and now the main opposition party (the Democratic Progressive Party) both in Parliament and outside. I have led a major restructuring of the DPP in preparation for the 2025 elections. So, I am still involved in frontline politics. I also lead a culture group and I am doing a lot of reading and writing.

How can you sum up the current socio economic and political state of Malawi today?

President Mutharika: On the socio-economic front, the situation is worrisome. The economy has collapsed, and the government has absolutely no solutions to the macro-economic instability, high cost of living and growing poverty. It is estimated that now 91% of the population is below the poverty line. As a result, there is growing violence, crimes and increasing social disorder. All these have led to a deteriorating security situation in the country. People engaged in peaceful protests have been subjected to imprisonment and physical violence by the state and its agents.

What is the nature of relations between you and the current administration?

President Mutharika: I would say that the relationship is “polite and correct”. There is minimum interaction.

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What are some of the things you will consider as lasting legacies of your first term?

President Mutharika: The establishment of Community Technical Colleges to empower the youth in skills. This was a massive program. When I left government, we had built over 20 technical colleges where the youth learn skills like ICT, Welding, Carpentry, tailoring, beauty technology, building etc. Most of the graduates from these colleges have become entrepreneurs and have created jobs for other youth.

Second, infrastructural development- roads and public transport. Every country needs good infrastructure to develop. Third, we created an enabling environment for foreign direct investment in key sectors like agriculture, health, and education. For the first time in the history of Malawi we established a National Identity Card and a Credit Reference Bureau.

How is your party doing and what alternative does it offer Malawians in contrast to the current ruling party or coalition?

President Mutharika: We are restructuring the party to bring it in line with the 2063 development goals. We have completed a functional review and in December 2023, the party’s National Political Conference will adopt the new rules. At the National Political Conference in July 2024, all party positions will be elected under the new rules. We are creating a party that will manage the emerging political order in Malawi. It will be based on the principles of development, justice, and security.

Will Prof Peter Mutharika be in the running for the next Presidential elections?

President Mutharika: As you have probably heard, there is an overwhelming demand by the people for me to return to power in 2025. First, people feel I should complete my term that was nullified by the courts in an election that all foreign observers, EU, AU, SADC, Commonwealth, and UN characterized as a “free, fair, and credible”.

MUTHARIKA: I am consulting with my family, friends and colleagues and will announce my decision in due course

My election was nullified in a decision that the court itself accepted that there was no rigging and that the irregularities (which happen in every election everywhere) did not affect the outcome. The court however went on and nullified the election in what a distinguished member of the English bar has called “a judicial coup d’état”. I am consulting with my family, friends and colleagues and will announce my decision in due course.

There are some Malawians who are anxious about the age factor, what is your response to those who think that someone of your age may not quite be up to the task in meeting pressing challenges of the times?

President Mutharika: I think they have legitimate concerns. However, I am very fit mentally and physically. On a stress test I took recently, I was told that I have the heart of a nineteen-year-old! You will remember that when Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus was called from retirement to assume complete control of the Roman State, he was in his eighties. He achieved victory for the Roman Republic in sixteen days and returned to his farm after that.

From your experiences in your first term, and the sobber moments you have had out of office, what are some of the things you will do or handle differently if you were to find yourself in power again?

President Mutharika: First the issue of violent demonstrations. I did not use force to stop the demonstrations. With the benefit of hindsight, I believe I should have managed them more forcefully within our democratic legal framework. That way I would have protected innocent victims while at the same time avoiding loss of life and property. I should also have used regional mechanisms to reverse what was clearly an irresponsible, callous, and malicious nullification of my 2019 electoral victory.

May we have your take on resurgence of military coups in some parts of the continent and the popular fervor that Africans are embracing them?

 President Mutharika: You will notice that most of these military coups have been initiated by junior officers and seem to enjoy a lot of support from the young people. It may very well be that we, the African leaders, have failed to meet the needs and expectations of our youths who form a majority in all our countries. It is the same youths who are crossing the Mediterranean to go to Europe. We have failed to give them education and employment opportunities. We African leaders therefore need to provide opportunities for our young people, end corruption and establish economies that serve all our people.

What do you make of the role and the report of the SADC Observer Mission on the recent elections in Zimbabwe?

 President Mutharika: I have not yet read the SADC observer mission report, but I have seen summaries of the report in the social media.  It appears that the SADC observer mission concluded that the Zimbabwe elections “violated democratic ideals” This was, of course, the mission’s observations based on the facts on the ground as they saw them. They are, of course, entitled to their conclusions.

Read original story here; https://panafricanvisions.com/2023/11/malawi-prof-mutharikas-unfinished-business/

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