Malawi ex-first lady Callista slams Pres Banda on economy: Renews ‘wa mandasi’ jibe

Former First Lady, Calista Chapola Mutharika, came out of her cocoon and took a swipe on President Joyce Banda, blaming her for ‘grossly’ failing to rule the country and putting Malawians in deep misery beyond reach.

She was guest of honour at Pastors Voices Fraternal conference at Assemblies of God Church in Chemusa, Blantyre on Saturday when she attacked Banda for rushing into devaluing the country’s currency by 49 percent without considering its effects, arguing her late husband and former President Bingu wa Mutharika has now been vindicated on his economic stance against devaluation.

Late Mutharika was reluctant to devalue the currency on recommendations from IMF as well as international and local economists, demanding to be given money first to cushion its effects.

But Banda, upon ascendency to power in April, 2012 following a sudden death of Mutharika due to cardiac arrest, devalued the currency and floated it as part of IMF policies for the country to access the much touted aid, which is erratically trickling in.

Callista Mutharika: I knew  a mandasi [fritter] seller canot not manage the economy of the country
Callista Mutharika: I knew a mandasi [fritter] seller canot not manage the economy of the country
President Joyce Banda: Glad to be identified with market women
President Joyce Banda: Glad to be identified with market women

“When Bingu stood against devaluation, many people thought he was mad. He tried to plead with chiefs and others just to understand how it will hurt us. His interest was to protect the poor people. Zoona chisime chimadziwika ndi chakuya chikauma (you know the depth of a pit when it’s dry), now Malawians are regretting for not taking up his advice. We are now feeling the pinch,” the former first lady said.

Mrs. Mutharika also dismissed the President’s public proclamation that there is hunger in the country, arguing “There is no hunger in Malawi. How could one say there is hunger when there are no maize imports and she is sourcing her maize locally? There is maize on the local market, a sign that we have food in the country.”

She added: “The only problem is on logistics; it seems the authorities are unable to ferry the grain from one point to another, and people currently don’t have money to buy. It is first thing in Malawi to see a 50kg bag of maize selling at K7, 500. It has never happened before”.

Callista Mutharika, who once worked with Banda at Hunger Project NGO before joining politics, repeated her last year’s comic sentiment against Banda that Mai wa mandasi sangalamule dziko (aamere market woman selling fritters cannot rule the country.}

“When I said  a mandasi [fritter] seller people thought it was just an insult or shabby talk, but, I have known her from way back. Just because she once ran an NGO, it doesn’t mean she is capable to run a country.

“Subsidy program has been messed up just nine months in power, what more if they are here for years? They are giving people sand mixed fertilizer and fake coupons, something that never happened under late Bingu’s administrations. There is no discipline to manage the program”.

However, government has refused to comment on her outburst.

Minister of Information and Civic Education also government spokesperson, Moses Kunkuyu when contacted just said: “As government we cannot comment on what the former First Lady said. All I know is that President Joyce Banda is doing her best”.

During the conference, which was attended by almost 400 pastors from Southern Region, Calista gave out K220, 000 to pastors’ wives to start up a revolving fund for small-scale businesses, comically warning “Don’t start mandasi businesses, there is no any profit with the Kwacha devaluation”.

She then urged the men of God to take part in fighting for the welfare of the people and never be afraid to criticize politicians and those in authority when things go wrong.

One of the main preachers at the event, Pastor Joshua Jere, called upon the church to participate in politics, arguing it is normal for religious people joining politics.

“We have a role to play as religious models. Take a look at devaluation, floatation of Kwacha, rising cost of living and corruption; and what is the church doing, almost nothing. But these problems have not spared us. So it’s it our role to safeguard the interest of people we serve and ensure our politicians are putting the will of people first,” Jere said in his sermon.

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