In memory of Bingu: What went wrong with his second term

April 5 2015 marked the third anniversary of the sad sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika, whose legacy stand to defend his honour through visible infrastructure development and policies and initiatives like the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP), free ARVs for HIV/AIDS patients, the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS), the African Food Basket and Green Belt Initiatives.



But after three years of mourning, it is high time we dried our tears, and ask ourselves, not why God granted such a visionary leader an untimely death, but why at the time of his demise, Mutharika’s presidency was widely criticised both at home and abroad? It is more imperative to reflect upon the failure of Mutharika than his success because first; President Peter Mutharika need to learn more from the mistakes than the success of his brother and second; young aspiring future leaders of Malawi have one or two lessons to learn from Mutharika’s “errors of judgement.”

Mutharika had a very successful first term of locally and internationally acknowledged political and economic success from May 2004 until May 2009. However, his derailment began with dislocations in diplomatic relations with Western donors in 2009. Bingu first breached the trust of donors when he bought a presidential jet at the price of about $22 Million. Donors criticized the purchase because it was too expensive even to maintain, and the purchase was a violation of fiscal austerity measures that Mutharika ought to have complied with to keep economic reforms on track. The Opposition too considered the purchase luxurious and ill-timed as the majority of Malawians lived in grave poverty with more 70 percent on less than 2 dollars a day. Following the Jet purchase Britain reduced its budgetary aid for the first time in Mutharika’s regime by at least 3 Million pounds.

The controversy over the jet purchase only opened the Pandora’s Box, as Mutharika again locked horns with the West a few months later in December 2009 when a gay couple wedded through a public traditional engagement ceremony in Blantyre. Mutharika’s government arrested the couple and slapped them with a jail sentence of 14years in May 2010 as per the Penal Code. Western donors, and human rights bodies, including the UN condemned Mutharika for the arrest, and accused him of violating human rights. Under the international pressure, Mutharika delivered a pardon speech with the UN Secretary General, Ban ki-moon, by his side after he had arrived and held private talks with him. But despite the pardon, Mutharika later told Malawians through MBCTV that the couple had broken the law, and insulted religions and culture of Malawians. He publicly attacked Western donors and accused them of attempting to fight his government using gay rights. In an act of open defiance to the West, Mutharika criminalized homosexuality further about six month later in December 2010 and included a ban on female homosexuality.

Bingu’s relations with the West took the deepest plunge, four months after the further-criminalization of homosexuality, in May 2011 when he expelled the British High Commissioner Fergus Cochrane-Dyet following a leaked cable in which Cochrane-Dyet wrote the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, that Mutharika was becoming a dictator and violated human rights including press freedom and minority rights. Britain retaliated by deporting the Malawian Ambassador and freezing the remaining aid.

Mutharika’s defiance towards the West did not spare the World Bank and IMF either. His relations with the IMF loosened in 2011, when the IMF accused Mutharika of going off truck, and withheld the Extend Credit Facility (ECF). Malawi was meanwhile suffering huge deficits in the Balance of Payment, which resulted in shortages of fuel and medicine and companies scaled down production leaving the economy on the verge of collapsing. To stimulate inflow of foreign currency, donor confidence, and the resumption of the ECF the IMF recommended among other conditions, a devaluation of the Kwacha. At first Mutharika reluctantly complied and devalued the Kwacha with 10 percent in August 2011. But the IMF recommended further devaluation of at least 40 percent which Mutharika rejected adamantly and accused the IMF of practising poor economics. He challenged the IMF on several occasions that he was not going to devalue the Kwacha, and that he would only devalue in the presence of a readily available bailout package to cushion inflationary effects for poor Malawians.

Apart from his poor relations with Western donors and the IMF, Mutharika’s own success and power were the deadliest nails on his coffin. Having had a successful first term, Mutharika scaled to the pinnacle of power, especially after scooping the 2009 General Elections with 66.7 percent. His DPP took majority in Parliament while most tough MPs like Dr George nga Mtafu that kept him politically alert and level-headed, flopped during the Elections, filling the parliament with new entrants mostly pro-DPP. And greater still Mutharika replaced Muammar Gaddafi on the Chairmanship of African Union in January 2010 after only seven months of his landslide victory, fuelling his ego further.

An example of success and how it derailed Mutharika is the FISP success. When the FISP succeeded beyond expectation and made Malawi a story of success Mutharika took too much credit for it and considered it his punch into the face of the West. The Western donors had earlier opposed the idea of subsidising farm input for farmers in Malawi. But as a well-versed World Bank economist himself, Mutharika debated at home and abroad that the subsidy was a workable solution. The success of the program proved him right, and proved the West wrong. This set a bad precedence for Mutharika, and was the Genesis of his defiance because he believed that since he had already proved to the West that he understood Malawian economics better than them, then he could no longer bow and buy their imperial policies.

An example of how power derailed Mutharika is manifested through his use of Parliamentary majority to pass the infamous bad laws which included section 46 of the Penal Code, which empowered Minister of Information to ban publication of materials he or she deemed not in the interest of the Public, the Injunction Bill that would prevent people from suing government or a government official, and the Police Act that empowered the police to, under certain circumstances, search without search warrant. He also bull-dozed the change of Malawi’s national flag amid huge controversy from the Opposition and Civil Society Organizations. Section 46 dragged Mutharika and the Media into an unprecedented fight between the media and a President. The media frequently attacked Mutharika and even manipulated some of his statements which he uttered out of anger and frustration, and Mutharika verbally attacked the media back, dragging himself further deep into political strife.

Mutharika also took a wrong turn at the start of his second term by prematurely endorsing the presidential candidacy of his brother, Peter Mutharika and without a party convention. He took the mistake further by prematurely campaigning for him even through government rallies. This was a symbol of Mutharika’s political patronage and a manifestation of how deep the tentacles of his power had spread inside the very heart of government and the DPP. Most people do not consider this a blunder, but first, if Peter Mutharika had been endorsed through a convention – which ought to have been the case – it would have minimized resistance of his endorsement which led to a regrettable emergence of factions and the firing of Joyce Banda and other party officials from DPP. And some of DPP Members of Parliament and officials that defected to PP after the death of Mutharika had already pledged their allegiance to Banda while the factions surfaced due to the endorsement of Peter Mutharika. And second, Bingu got into an early campaign and fight with the Opposition and anti-Bingu regime activists whom wanted to prevent what they had considered an imminent Mutharika dynasty whose beneficiaries would be Mutharikas tribesmen and close friends.

Finally, Mutharika in a sudden regrettable turn of events began to practice overt tribalism right after his re-election, which was another nail on his coffin. For instance, in his attempt to support the Quota System of selecting students to public universities and colleges, Mutharika publicly declared that the North was overrepresented in employment. He later accused Northern Lecturers and students at the Chancellor College of having a Mzuzu Corner where they cheated for exams to give Northern students an upper hand. Mutharika had unfortunately underestimated the influence of Northerners in Malawi’s politics as the setters of political agenda since pre-independence. Mutharika thus declared war with Northerners, or Northerners themselves took his stance as a declaration of war, and swarmed on his leadership like bees. This is evidenced by the fact that most CSOs leaders and faith based Activists that battered Mutharika’s leadership were from the North including Undule Mwakasungula, Bishop Zuze, the Synod of Livingstonia, and Ralph Kasambara.

In conclusion, my analysis is that the fall of Mutharika happened so fast and within a very short time. There are a lot of factors involved and blunders of Mutharika, but basically he isolated himself from bilateral and multilateral donors whose funding had earned him the very success he was proud of. Without their aid, the economy was vulnerable and there was little he could do to recover it. He also isolated himself from CSOs who had stood by his side during his first term when his presidency was threatened by impeachment attempts, section 65 and rejection of the passing of national budget. Frustrated with his arrogance and consolidation of power, and lack of his appreciation for their effort during his troubled first term, the CSOs partnered with the Opposition and some Western donors. It was easy for donors to support CSOs since they had already blacklisted Mutharika as an emerging pan-African dictator.

May the work of his hands continue to speak for him!


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66 thoughts on “In memory of Bingu: What went wrong with his second term”

  1. taelo limmbani says:

    Tumbukasi are genious people and will remain like that for more than 100years to come. it was really unfotunate for the whole president to comment on Mzuzu corner. Tumbukas know they are disadvantaged by our education system thats why mtumbuka works hard and reads his stuff well. pokhapa it was a sad development from a president.

  2. Feranji says:

    @stivieDickson ine ndayenda koopsya mwina kuposa iweyo and i still regard Bingu my Hero and nobody or anything will change that.Let me tell you anthu akunja ukuwanenawo ankatseka tikumuukira Bingu kuti we did not know what we were misusing.Mutukwana but Bingu is the HERO.

  3. Kanyimbi says:

    Please do not provoke the spirit of this man (Bingu). All the people who were against him have faced tough times.

  4. Mumalawi weni weni says:

    His death was timely, we were tired of him, and now even tired of his DPP already.

  5. Framboyant muthalika dastany. Kudzadzitsa illiterate and incompetent lomwes m’maofesimu.

  6. Yosefe Gambatula says:

    Bingu will be missed by his illiterate mulakho cohorts with blind loyalty.No iota of analytical and critical sense in them.Full of dunderheads.

  7. Teacher says:

    But if you look at the post democracy leaders from 1994 to date, Bingu was the better evil and Bakili the waste of all.

  8. Francis says:

    Kodi akulu awa alipo? asowatu

  9. Teacher says:

    Well, you have tried to mention of what went wrong with the second term of Bingu. But surely you have missed the very important catalyst to Bingu’s downfall. His marrying of Callista destroyed him. From the moment he got himself into this marriage that’s when Bingu became mad. Callista was Bingu’s main problem. He was a better man with Ethel Muthalika with her humbleness. MHSRIP. While Ethel preached piece throughout her life with her low profile, Callista went on podiums telling them anthu a kumudzi samafuna fuel.

  10. lamya gunda says:

    Mzuzu corner was it investgated?cheating,tribalitic bingu.God doesn’t sleep

  11. ARTOM says:

    We Never Find A Person Him 4ever And Ever

  12. ri says:

    from the article, Bingu is somebody to admire. the west hate him bcoz he proved them wrong in FISP, the west hate him coz he criminalized homosexuality, kenako the west used economic power to push him down, and later when he refused to listen to Western dictatorship, the west called him a dictactor and masterminded his death.

  13. berha says:

    Article well written and analysed

  14. Yesaya Dziko says:

    Take it or leave it. Bingu anali mwamuna ndipo sindinamuonenso otere, machine amene aja.

  15. andy kanyamanyama says:

    Bingu was a terriible leader for Malawi. He was very self-centered.

  16. Mwama Du says:

    I dont see anything to remember about his life. To hell Bingu.

  17. Mphongo Zidana says:

    A Sibande mwalemba bwino ndithu analysis yanu. Koma malembedwe anu ndi osokoneza anthu. Nkhani yanu mukukamba ngati Bingu amadana ndi anthu a kumpoto. Kumene kuli kulakwitsa.

  18. Mtunda says:

    Whatever, there never ever lived a visionary leader like him in the multipaty era despite his adamancy.

  19. edda mwalweni says:

    Bingu ndiye Maliro koma Chasowa ndiye ndani ? No hiding in the eyes of God. ………Tikuona, komanso Mulungu akuona. Fotseki ……..

  20. jupiter says:

    Koma nde chibukhu

  21. wintinho says:

    stupit man who only know much of mulakho basi

  22. wintinho says:

    stupit man who was extravagute

  23. Thank you very much mr Sibande and I hope for you to be economical with the truth interprets your ill-ethnocentric idealogies.First,let me put into pinnacle that the genesis of all that razzmatazz,was the wrong economic development perception which Bingu defied and eventually schooled the Bretton Woods institutions with their western neocolonialists,about the success of ARV therapy,FISP,local financing of major projects i.e kamphata-nkhoma road in the run-up to 2009 general elections.So,to alledge that the western anti-Binguism started after elections is an insult to well meaning Malawians.Bingu openly told the the western-neocolonialists through a BBC world economic development debate that,whether with their string-attached donations or not,Malawi shall continue with free ARVs and FISP.This however,was like salting a bruised wound due to Malawis switching off of bilateral ties from Taiwan to China which is a self-made enemy of west in 2007.However,the Malawi-China relationship,brought remarkable state of the art infrustructure development that no blue-eyed ever brought to Nyasaland let alone Malawi since 1891.Take Libya under Muamar Gaddafi,why do they conspired to oust him? life was better in Misurata,Ajidabiya,Tripoli etc than in washington,california etc,but now look at Libya. WATCHOUT YOUR PRAISE AND WORSHIP FOR THE OUR FATHER WHO ART IN THE WEST!!!!

  24. Namiasi says:

    This is a tribal party promoting MCP for liberation

  25. Hendricks says:

    The whole dpp and mutharikas regardless of what their first name is just disgust me,period. I was hoping after bingu’s death I won’t hear of dpp and another mutharika again only to hear of another mutharika rubbish again. I passionately hate these mafias and everything they stand for.

  26. tikhala says:

    The poblem with Northeners is they are good crirics – but why cant they form a strong party and be elected?. Nepotism was introduced by Northerners – employ one northern boss everyone will be a northern. I Know of capital hill one department where tumbuka is the official language in the offices. They have flooded the Center and south so even if the north is developed , who will live there?kAMUZU WAS RIGHT- THEY SHOULD GO BACK HOME!

  27. Wailing Soul says:

    All of the above was written immediately after his death by experts like Chinsinga, Chingaipe, Dulani, Hussein, Kaira in the Lamp magazine. Scholars mentioned plus many others have written such in many academic journals. News analysts like Steve Nhlane, Ephraim Munthali and Kasakula George plus Alfred Ntonga already wrote this stuff. The bottom line of my argument is that Sibande’s piiece is just copy and paste and nothing new. In fact, its what academîcs call plagiarism unless Sibande had cited references. Pronto!

  28. chejali says:

    Kkkkkkkk sudafa basi.

  29. conndom says:

    Bingu was a narcisstic bastard. He had it coming to him

  30. Manjawala says:

    How is his brother doing?

  31. Chiluz says:

    Without quota system sindinakavia ku college ine!!! Ithanx fumu mose may your soul rest in peace

  32. Ambuje apali says:

    Sindifuna kumamva za dictator ameneyu, mbava number 1

  33. mashabera says:

    Bingu was a great man. He lived a life that i feel we failed to understand until his death thats when some of us understood him. How could you understand the white who have taken their belongings and leave still want to impose on us what to do. They took their money and letter demand to devalue our currency? They said we should not implement the subsidy programme without a good reason. When we did and successfully have it, they expect us to bow down to their failed policies. The lost their reason and got angry with our success then they used unpatriotic civil societies to bring down the one visionary leader we had. Selfish westerns

  34. Okhrana says:

    Afred munduwabo, olo u spray doom mkamwa, or ukadziponye pa Everest, Peter wil remain malawis president, mpaka 2024 unles mupitenso ku Nigeria mukaombeze kwa ur prophets. Ulira sunati. Ku university amapanga mayeso ndi course recturer not maneb, manva mtumbuka wachimbuliwe. So mzuzu corner ma lecture amatulutsa ma questions b4 exams, ziatumbuka nkumapezeratu answers. Ife alomwefe atumbuka ena a half mtumbuka amatiuza. Koma ulira sunati kkkkkkkkkk

    1. Abale samalani says:

      Okhrana… or whatever u call urself. R u serious abt Peter up to 2024.? R u God.? U don’t learn fro the past

  35. Anstead Mponela says:

    This is nosense, missusing of the resources.

  36. sakamundende says:

    Chindere chakufikapo. Chakumwa maji bhakukhefulira mwembe

  37. Anderson Benedict Alikyfi says:

    Academic freedom saga?? Zigubu lining up at filling stations? Killing in cold blood of Robert Chasowa?? To hell with dictators!!! Most of the people who praise Bingu have never been across the borders to appreciate how our neighbors are excelling with development. Umbuli basi. Tamayendani.

  38. stivieDickson says:

    inu za bwino zanu ndie ziti zomwe mwatumiza nawo a Malawi

  39. Nyamakumutu says:

    If this is what you call a mistake by Bingu then you got it wrong. What you have written as the cause of the downfall does not look a mistake but that Mzungu don’t want to be told that he is wrong. Munthalika will remain our strong leader after Kamuzu Banda who can tell Mzungu on his face what he need to hear and not what he wants to hear. The problem with Mzungu is that he thinks he knows better how to solve African problems.

  40. one malawi one people says:

    sibande this is good analysis …..y?, coz its the true history about the “so called bad” things that brought the economy & Bingu’s leadership down… my fellow readers, pliz understand sibande the columnist….in this story, he is not trying to balance up the gud & bad side of bingu but he is putting in the open the obvious mistakes that bingu made so that the current and future presidents shud learn from…..some of the mistakes were truly bad mistakes but som so called mistakes were not bad…e.g. banning same sex marriage….there was nothing wrong he did, he was just defending the constitution which he found intact as it is today!….subsidy, he was not wrong, endorsing peter, he was not wrong……it happens in many countries even in USA, d’u know George snr & George jnr and now another Bush is coming in…..even here in Malawian politics everyone does that, can u check the hierarchy of parties positions, u ‘ll ring kuti ndi zokhazokhazi even kamuzu did it, he made Tembo his relative a strong man in MCP regime……so the only wrong thing by Bingu on Peter’s endorsement was the timing, as sibande rightly puts it he wud have waited for a convention….so its 50/50 he crumbled bcoz he followed to much in wat his mind believed in and some pple didn’t want him to become a “hero” at their expense …….some of his “beliefs” were gud for our country and bad to donors for their own good and bad reasons and some of his “beliefs” were bad to both……..he was a gud leader as compared to his fellows in the multiparty regime….he at least had some sense of direction…..he was not a MONSTER as some of u want the world to believe……the monsters r perhaps these ones just leaving the stage, anangogawanamo ndalama osagwira chitukuko olo chimodzi….Bingu, yes its true mr sibande and fellow readers, he made mistakes highlighted herein……but the truth he will also be remembered as a visionary leader by many, without being coerced…..HE DIED FOR HIS TRUTH AND PERHAPS THE TRUTH FOR MANY MALAWIANS….. I.e. if international economic politics is to go by…..only time will teach us lessons on why he had that stance on economics.

  41. George Lihoma. says:

    Time is the greatest paver of Heroism. Over half of the nation’s populace never wanted anything to do with Dr Banda soon after his down fall in 1994. Today almost everybody is so much interested and impressed with Dr Bandas legacy,including me. My father was detained without trial by him in 1964 – 1971 at Dzaleka Detention Camp. Koma that will never erase zabwino/zoipa zomwe anachita. Afterall we are humans. Hahahahahahaha.

  42. Mr Nice says:

    Why so early Bingu? We still cry for your visionary leadership. Malawi would have been not the same if you were alive. May your soul rest in peace.

  43. Kadakwiza says:

    Peter changed Bingu, everyone knows.

  44. tipcally the writer is from north i hate selfish northerns

    1. Tiyanjane says:

      I am from the north and I love you because you are my God’s image. I only dislike what you have said. This month, My niece has introduced to me, a boyfriend from, Phalombe and a nephew brought home a girlfriend from Dedza. It is a wonderful!

      1. Abale samalani says:

        Tel him more

  45. Arrows says:

    Zofunikadi kumakumbukira ufiti wa ambwiye aja mwayiwalanso kuti amaanene anthu omwe anawavotera kuti tiankhwenzule tating’onoting’ono komanso anauza apolisi kuti mukaombere anthu kunsewu komanso tizikumbukira kuti ndalama zomwe boma limangongola kuti apangire zitukuko amazigwiritsa bwino ncthito ngakhale amafuna kuti zitukuko zonse zizinka kumwera

  46. thembi says:

    A sibande. Didnt u see the very many bad effects of devaluation when amai pleased the donors? I personally see bingu was 100% right. No cushions were provided and many if not all of us malawians are still not yet recovered

  47. phiri says:

    That’s political games

  48. mavuto says:

    y only mantioning on many bad things have u 4gorten many gud things he did? which is better to departure from god will & pleasing western donors by accepting same sex marriages.

  49. Mac Hendy says:

    but was he lying about mzuzu corner?

    1. indoda isizibonela, says:

      Is there mzuzu corner at MANEB,College of medicine,bunda,kcn,poly? when you were born dull,don’t blame northerners,blame the genetic make up. Of your ancestors,mzuzu corner was a very stupid scapegoat that bingu and fellow stupid southeners believe in,one day you I’ll manage to mutate and should the odds smile at you,will manage to give birth to an Intelligent offspring who .might be
      able to correct your abnormal thinking sucker

    2. Yosefe langwani says:

      You people are very need to work up your asses.Ana akumpoto amakhoza even if they are learning in your districts.So what the hell are you talking here.Remove that spirit of laziness to hell with that stupid quota system to bring down a certain group of people.Evil people with very archaic tradition.Your evil demented senile leader just cooked up the story to ostracise the northerners for nothing.No wonder he died like a nobody.Mulungu amalanga pansi mpopano..

  50. Dingiswayo mputeni says:

    He left a legacy as a very greedy old man who never listened to anybody.Thats how he will be remembered by Malawians.

  51. Sayimoni bayisikolo says:

    Bingu became very big headed during second term.He never listened to anybody apart from stooges like Malopa and wailing moaning Ntatas.Bingu preached of austerity measures and at the same time ripping off the poorest country of billions.Double standards of African Politicians.When people wanted to demonstrate,he sent his weed smoking police to spray some bullets on them to silence them.Malawians got tired and prayed for cardiac to arrest him and it happened.His friend Ntata bolted to Queensland and he came empty handed and started crying for a position in Pitalas govt.Thats how dictators end up in Africa.They die like nobodies because of greed.That marked the end of Daniel Phiri and the mud night six banged at Lumbadzi.

  52. Samuel says:

    Bing was Mutharika was quite a renowned economist. If leaders, (put aside the war btn him and CSOs and donors) come in a roll, Malawi could surpass the economic development of some SADC countries. A leader must be visionary and think beyond the horizon.

  53. Zithanie [email protected] says:

    The dead bngu was very foulish remember after killing pipo he bought bear & celebrating

  54. Mawu Apaseli says:

    Peter Arthur Mutharika is a far worse off thief…Dictator….Wizard

  55. Alfred Munduwabo says:

    It is a big lesson to the toothless young brother. Peter thinks Malawi can do without donors in five years time to come. South African which can declare itself a continent on its own if it wants to do so still needs donors , who is Peter to start telling Malawians that he will not need donors anymore in five years time ?

    Power corrupts , he has all the whole MK92,b the brother stole from our taxes. His hair cut changed immediately he became the head of state , when he walks he feels he is on top of the world , when he is talking you won’t even notice that the man was teaching in the American universities , all seems fake. He is more like a vender than a president of a country.

    He is getting all the wrong advises from his home boys , the likes of Ben Phiri all the Lhomwes .

    1. berha says:

      Article well analysed

  56. Biti Foloko says:

    What went wrong was the coming and prominence of Peter…the current thief

  57. Denkhule says:

    Not impressing facts really. What you have written is merely based on personal opinion.

    1. Think Tank says:

      You too have written personal opinion!

  58. Denkhule says:

    Not impressing facts really.

Comments are closed.