Our series of stories on the wealth of the former president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika continues. These are stories of a former president who was once praised for being a reformer during his first term, but suddenly slammed for being a dictator during his second term.
One of the factors that led the masses to heap praises on the late Mutharika soon after taking over the presidency in mid 2004 was his gallant fight against corruption. Unlike some leaders who blatantly refuse to declare their assets, to demonstrate their commitment to transparency and accountability, Mutharika led by example by declaring that his wealth totalled K150 million.
When he declared war on the corrupt fat cats, the entire nation shook as the battle never spared anyone. Even his own predecessor who funded his campaign ended up in court answering corruption charges. Mutharika’s war against corruption made him a darling of the masses during his first term of office. The masses demonstrated their support to him by voting for him in large numbers for the second term of office.
Strangely after the majority had given him their vote at polls, during his second term Mutharika’s clean record completely changed. All of a sudden, the democrat revolved into a dictator, the economic engineer became the economic saboteur.
His war against corruption lost steam. On 6th February 2012 speaking during the National Anti-corruption Day Commemoration, he was almost tongue-tied to comment on the feats his administration had chalked in the fight against graft.
The same anti-corruption champion ended up declaring that he was not aware whether or not his administration’s anti-graft battle was succeeding. “After several years of advocacy, is Malawi winning the war against corruption? I don’t have immediate answers.” That was a surprising answer to come from the same leader who during his first term had immediate answers to that question.
We are reminding Malawians about Mutharika leadership in the fight against corruption deliberately because we are continuing with our reportage on the former president’s wealth.
Whether there is a linkage between his lack of serious commitment to anti-corruption fight during his second term of office and his accumulation of wealth is the question that we will answer in the due course as we progress with our investigations. But your immediate guess of the answer to that question is as good as ours.
While as a team of investigative journalists, we will be striving to shed light on the sources of Mutharika’s millions of dollars and billions of Kwachas which are in his personal accounts and how he accumulated the wealth at the time the country was facing economic challenges our professional work as journalists alone is not enough. There are issues that all Malawians should join hands in finding solutions to.
If the late Mutharika as a sitting president had billions in his account which he accumulated within a short period of time, what will prevent the current sitting president and future presidents from amassing huge amounts of wealth when the masses are suffering? What can be done to immediately stop this type of questionable wealth accumulation whereby presidents and their relatives, all of a sudden become billionaires when the masses are suffering?
Isn’t the current president using the same strategies, legal or illegal, corrupt or corrupt free, right or nefarious to accumulate wealth without the much needed transparency and accountability?
Professional investigators and valuation experts have indicated in their initial probe that the late Mutharika had assets valued at about K61 billion, do we know at what rate is the current president accumulating her own wealth using the presidency as a tool for easy riches?
Can we as a nation surely stand and watch sitting presidents becoming billionaires without asking them to account for their wealth? Should our presidents get away with obscure and opaque wealth accumulation while we, watch as if we are headless and mouth-less citizens?
Doesn’t the sudden accumulation of wealth by sitting presidents explain the executive arrogance they display even when they are being cautioned on pertinent issues such as globetrotting and extravagant local travel?