No honeymoon for Malawi’s new president Peter Mutharika

Mutharika administration must seriously heed the IMF advice not to discard some of Joyce Banda’s policies lest it risks throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Granted, the new President’s late brother was resolute against devaluation and a flexible exchange rate for the kwacha. Bingu’s popular refrain was devaluation and floatation would hurt the poor. That stand made political sense but what the Big Kahuna conveniently – if not arrogantly – forgot was that Malawi had only two choices: devalue or sink. Bingu chose the latter and you and I know the consequences.

When the accident of fate during those three mad days of April removed Bingu from the picture, Joyce Banda accepted wholesale the economic prescription from what her predecessor derided as the ‘Washington Consensus’. The kwacha lost half its value and, as Bingu predicted, prices of goods and services shot right through the roof.

President Peter Mutharika

President Peter Mutharika

But the gains from Ama’s sacrifice were invaluable. At least a billion dollars were immediately injected in the economy and forex and fuel queues disappeared in a flash.

Of course Joyce Banda was eventually done in by ‘cashgate’ which her handlers failed spin to her advantage. Abiti was left alone to explain the biggest public finance scandal in the entire 50 years Malawi has been an independent state. Inevitably, the presidency slipped away from her grip.

But Peter must know that Joyce Banda lost the elections because Malawians have started asking serious questions. If in 2019 Peter makes the same mistake Ama made to employ 1999 Muluzi tactics he will go the way his predecessor went.

Bakili Muluzi in 1999 and Bingu in 2009 sailed on the crest of the Malawian voter’s gullibility. Peter – or whoever it will be in 2019 – will face an electorate ready with serious questions. If 2014 were 1999 Ama could have won with a landslide with her goats-cow-house-motorbike campaign.

Granted, tribal politics is still prevalent in Malawi but slowly such politics is ceasing to be a factor.

Peter’s work starts now; he has no luxury of a honeymoon (I mean the political ‘honeymoon’; Gertrude may still deserve some honeymoon of sorts! Hah! Hah!)

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