Chinsinga raps Mutharika on legitimacy, regionalism

Dr Blessings Chinsinga, a political analyst based at the University of Malawi’s Chancellor College, has disputed President Peter Mutharika’s claims on Sunday that Malawi’s democracy is fast-maturing and a good example to countries in the region.

Mutharika made the remarks in Lilongwe as Malawi marked 50 years of freedom from colonial rule and the 20-year anniversary of multi-party democracy in Malawi.

But Chinsinga disagreed with the President during an interview Nyasa Times monitored on Radio France International (RFI) on Sunday.

“I think there would have to be some qualifications made. Of course, most democracy enthusiasts have looked at the way Malawi conducted the 20 May 2014 elections as a sign that Malawi’s democracy is maturing for the simple reason that we managed to change our government through the ballot. For me, I think that is not enough, we have to look at how the whole election was conducted, but more importantly the implications of the results in terms of Malawi being able to churn out, what I would call an inclusive political settlement,” said Chinsinga.

President Mutharika and the  First Lady at Malawi golden jubilee celebrations
President Mutharika and the First Lady at Malawi golden jubilee celebrations
Dr Chinsinga: We may not experience a clean break
Dr Chinsinga: We may not experience a clean break

“To put that in context, the president was elected with only 36 per cent of the vote, meaning that 64 per cent of Malawians did not want him to be the president. And I think that raises serious questions about his legitimacy as a leader,” the political professor who was at the centre of academic freedom impasse when Peter Mutharika was education minister, said.

In his speech, President Mutharika also said the country’s biggest enemy today was poverty.

Asked by RFI if Mutharika government would be able to tackle poverty and corruption which has bedevilled Malawi over the past fifty years, Chinsinga said he had serious “doubts”.

“I’m saying so because to really turn things around would require tough and bold decisions to be made, especially in terms of how we handle our government affairs. And so far I haven’t seen any serious indications to suggest that the new government would even want to initiate a clean break with the past,” he said.

The political analyst added his voice to the growing chorus of criticism to Mutharika bordering on nepotism and regionalism in his selection of cabinet and public appointments.

“A very good example in this regard is how the appointments have been made so far. I think they still smack of regionalism, they still smack of patronage, “pointed out Chinsinga.

He said chances are “very high” that Malawi may not experience a clean break between the new government and the old administration.

The jubilee was attended by Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe who was the only Head of State at the function.

Chinsinga was also critical of autocrat Mugabe’s presence, saying “it doesn’t portray a good image of us as a country especially within the sub-region.”

He said Mugabe’s presence was “not very surprising because he comes in after two years following his brother’s death and his brother (late president Bingu wa Mutharika) was very close to President Robert Mugabe.”

Presidential spokesman Frederick Ndala, however, said Malawi@50 is a period of “reflection” as a nation collectively.

Malawi remains one of the poorest countries in the world with more than half its population living below the poverty line.

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