Turning point for Malawi’s ailing economy.The dreamer is gone but the dream lives on


Bingu the visionary in leadership maintained his visionaries even in death. Bingu who died on April 6, 2012, walked his last mile yesterday at Ndata farm from his Ndata Mansion to the Mpumulo wa Bata Mausoleum – where his first wife, Ethel, was buried in 2007.

Professor Bingu, who until his death was the president of the Sovereign Republic of Malawi, had already prepared a resting place for himself alongside his late wife in the mausoleum.

The thousands of people gathered at Ndata from within and outside Malawi could not help but marvel at his creation at Ndata which his brother, Peter, alleged was designed by Bingu himself.

Peter disclosed that the new Malawi University of Science and Technology was also designed by the late president.

Peter Mutharika, who is also the interim president of the DPP and DPP’s likely torchbearer in 2014, pledged never to abandon the party and asked all DPP members not to despair.

“Just like my brother [Bingu], I will stand and fall on Malawi soil. And DPP is not dead. DPP is still there. The dreamer is gone but the dream lives on.” Said a bold but rather emotionally shaken young Mutharika.

The young Mutharika went on to describe the departed president as “a good man, who was also a poet, ardent fisherman, and music composer; some of whose songs enjoy airplay on American radio stations.”

The brother also acknowledged that the deceased made some mistakes but that “they were mistakes of judgement and not intention or out of evil.”

Speaking on behalf of the bereaved family, Ambassador Namondwe, who almost broke into tears, said the family was saddened by some people who had even thrown parties to celebrate the death of the former head of state.

Some people broke into tears when Duwa Mubaira Mutharika, daughter to the late president, in her eulogy said, “I was to have lunch with my dad on the day he collapsed.” She described him as a good father and called him her “hero.”

“I am proud to be the daughter of Ngwazi Professor Bingu Wa Mutharika. And I will tell my children every day that there once walked a man on this earth who lived and breathed justice and peace. And that that man is their grandfather,” said a somewhat composed but grief-stricken Duwa.

She further asked Malawians to “never ever forget him.”

Died of a heart attack on April 5, 2012

For those who thought they are done with the Mutharika dynasty, the young Duwa might just be a vice president of this country if what her father wished her came true.

Armando Emilio Guebuza president of Mozambique who spoke on behalf of SADC described Mutharika as one of the greatest son of Africa and of SADC, who was visionary and preached economic independence of Africa.

Professor Bingu was chairman of African Union (AU) and coincidentally launched his book “My African Dream” during an AU Summit in January 2011 in AU’s Headquarters in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

Although Guebuza applauded Bingu’s dream on making “Africa the food basket”, it is a known fact that it was his government that was frustrating the former president’s most cherished dream, the Shire-Zambezi Waterway.

In a strange twist of events outspoken Secretary General for DPP, Wakuda Kamanga, nearly went on his knees to publicly ask forgiveness from Madame Joyce Banda, in front of the African Heads of State, several other foreign dignitaries, the clergy, Mutharika family and all people assembled, for the wrongs they (DPP) did and said against her.

He further explained that when there is a sitting president many things tend to be said and that he was apologizing on behalf of the whole DPP.

In her speech, Her Excellency the President of the Republic of Malawi, Madame Joyce Banda said she is committed to move Malawi from poverty to prosperity and asked Malawians to move forward with hope.

Five African Heads of State and three deputies had graced the burial ceremony which was presided over by his Lordships: Arch-Bishop Tarcizius Ziyaye of Blantyre Arch-Diocese, Remi Ste Marie of Lilongwe Arch-Diocese, Rt. Rev Bishop Joseph Zuza of Mzuzu Diocese, Bishop Peter Msikuwa of Chikhwawa Diocese, Auxilliary Bishop Montfort Sitima and Rt. Rev Bishop Emmanuel Kanyama of Dedza Diocese among others and a large number of priests.

For the past two to three years, the Malawi economy has plunged into a pit that seemed to be impossible to come out of. Malawians do not celebrate death, but there is a belief that the former president Bingu wa Mutharika’s death on April 5, 2012, might be a turning point for our dwindling economy.

Forex and fuel shortages have been more popular than the chorus of a popular club song. These problems have spilled out of hand. With government vehicles, company vehicles, transporters and private vehicles spending more time in fuel queues rather than doing productive work, one just wonders just how many man hours have been lost because of this hunt for fuel.

In some cases, people have waited at dry fuel pumps for three to four days only to be told there is no fuel and move to another filling station to find this rare commodity.

Investors are also crying foul because the shortage or unavailability of forex has affected their investment decisions with some companies literally closing down, or retrenching their labor force, thereby adding to the already worrisome rate of unemployment.

While the black market is enjoying unprecedented profits from forex pushing, the majority of Malawians are crying; prices of goods are rocketing every day. Basic commodities like sugar and bread have now turned into a luxury that only a few can afford.

The forex rationing in banks and other formal markets has been labelled as a big joke.

But, this is what the new government of President Joyce Banda has inherited. What are the challenges they have to face in order to lift Malawi out of this economic turmoil?

Her Excellency and her government need to first of all mend fences with donor partners and win their confidence, so that the withheld aid can start pouring in and ease pressure on forex. They need to do away with some bad laws that made donors withhold support to Malawi.

They also need to go back to the drawing board and come up with fiscal policies that are going to attract more donor support.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) had suspended its support of Malawi’s economic programme, due to the previous administration’s economic slippages which has cost the country’s budget support. This has resulted in the shrinking the national budget, which has in turn caused shortages of essentials such as drugs, fuel and foreign currency.

The United States government’s Millenium Challenge Corporation (MCC) has also yet to release a $350 million energy grant meant to upgrade the country’s electricity infrastructure, which it had suspended.

Malawi needs to devalue the Kwacha so that the exchange rate is at a more market-determined level. This will ease demand for forex on the parallel market, and bring the demand back to the formal market. President Banda has to establish this as a priority step in addressing the country’s economic woes.

This only shows that there is no resting time for Madame President and, like many commentators have said, no time for vengeance.

One commentator, Undule Mwakasungula of Malawi Human Rights Commission said, “there is no time for vengeance. President Banda needs to win back donor confidence and do away with bad laws. Priority areas are very clear; forex, fuel and donor funds. I believe she is going to deliver.”

Another commentator, a mandazi seller in Lilongwe’s Area 49, said, “I hope the new president will make sugar available for us because things are really bad at the moment.”

Dr. George Nga Mtafu, a veteran politician who occupied several portfolios in the Muluzi-led government, said, “I have faith in the new government of Madame Joyce Banda and Hon. Khumbo Kachali. I think they know quite well what the priorities for Malawi are. They have absolutely no time to play.”

Having seen what the miscalculated decisions of her predecessor, President Bingu wa Muthrika, had cost Malawi, the onus is on her Excellency to turn things around.

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