Malawi’s Mutharika sets new record on spendthrift: Of honorary degrees and spending sprees

President Peter Mutharika felt it was OK to spend a jaw-dropping K50 million-plus from the national coffers to charter a plane and fly out to Ethiopia to receive an honorary degree from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia.

President Peter Mutharika, inspects guard of honour on his departure to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at Kamuzu International Airport-(c) Abel Ikiloni, Mana

President Peter Mutharika, inspects guard of honour 

My conservative estimation—from a point of knowledge—is that the taxpayer was fleeced another K30 million for accommodation, food, local transfer expenses in Addis and allowances for the presidential entourage for the two days Mutharika was in Addis Ababa.

I was curious to know why an erudite of his credentials he would still be wowed with a piece of paper of no consequential value to Malawians.

This jolted my curiosity further to find out more about honorary degrees. It then dawned on me we are in the season when universities dole out honorary degrees on the great, the good and high profile figures to spice up their graduation celebrations.

I recalled that on the local scene all former presidents and many more Malawians have been bestowed honorary degrees by universities, local and foreign. Nothing wrong with that! The difference, though, is that they did not spend so much of the taxpayers’ money to get those honorary degrees.

A wider cast availed me names like Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump who received his honorary degree from Scotland Robertson University in 2010—only to have it revoked over his comments about Mexicans.

In my search I also stumbled on Kermit the Frog, who was awarded the Doctor of Amphibious Letters by Long Island University in 1996. Whatever that means! I care less to know.

Over time, a few universities have eschewed the practice of honorary degrees altogether because of concerns about the criteria being used for selecting candidates and whether the awarding of such degrees serves any useful purpose for the university.

Nonetheless universities the world over have given out thousands of honorary degrees and who was the Malawi leader to say no.

In that light, I wanted to know who holds the record for receiving the most honorary degrees?

I learned that nobody really keeps track of such things. A certain contender though is Bill Cosby, who has been awarded more than 60. Of course, in light of the recent accumulation of old rape allegations stacked against him, the American celebrity comedian is also on track for the record for most revoked honorary degrees.

On the number of colleges which have yanked the degrees Cosby ties with Zimbabwe’s nonagenarian President Robert Mugabe.

But what if you are feeling honorary degree envy and want one of your own? No problem. The University of Berkley (an online institution not to be confused with UC Berkeley) will issue honorary doctorates to a “select group of highly accomplished individuals” such as yourself.

All you have to do is send them a brief autobiographical sketch, plus a $2,000 (K1.5million) “honorarium contribution to cover processing and handling”.

But when a president of one of the world’s poorest economies thinks it is just fine to spend a whopping K80 million (or thereabouts) to receive an honorary degree—enough money to pay school fees for over 280 University of Malawi students—you know that something is actually not OK. For wasting such a dizzying amount of money to receive an honorary degree, Mutharika may just have set a new national record on spendthrift.

As if to rub salt on a festering wound, he returns from Ethiopia and tells Malawians to be proud of the degree. Excuse me!

  • The article first appeared in Weekend Nation newpaper
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What is more, as well as spending/wasting all that money on his trip for a meaningless degree, APM was supposedly given the degree in recognition of all that he has achieved since becoming President!! Try looking for these achievements; you might as well look for a needle in a haystack. Name just ONE of these achievements, if you can.


It is an insult for the president of poor country to fly way too far to Addis to receive honorary degree from university which has no academic freedom and infested with ruling party cadres and spies.Recently ,Addis Ababa University fired two well known academicians simply because they exercised their freedom of expression .

Mika Kumbire
Honeycomb; I know it’s not your real name. I reckon that’s why we Malawians will never develop. So you mean it is fine to spend money recklessly like what Joyce Banda did simply because Malawi was getting donations from International partners. I for one feels that resources should always be utilized prudently irrespective of where the funds are coming from. Malawians should simply learn to use resources prudently and sparingly for the good of everyone. Both Joyce Banda and Peter Mutharika should have thought of the poor man or poor state of our health systems before embarking on such expensive… Read more »
Nyasatimes and those who keep accusing Mutharika,only shows how jealousy you ,if we can compare the current president and your favorite JB,you will discover that Mutharika is better of than JB.We saw jb moving on daily basis from nsanje to chitipa ,spending more than 20 million daily ,from monday to friday she was spending more than 100 million ,Malawians cried ,but nothing was done.I understand you were silent because by that time the chiumias were benefiting from jb,s frequent travels .To day because is Mutharika ,now you want to sound like you love ,the country.If Malawi has witnessed a president… Read more »
Charlie Hebdo
Well done Steve. “The duty of a patriot is to protect his country from its government”; supposedly a quote by Thomas Paine. ” A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his Government”; Edward Abbey. People like Nyima are not Patriots. They are ready to defend the indefensible exclusively due to their political inclination. A wrong will always be a wrong regardless of who does it. Just because JB did something wrong isn’t justification to commit the same ill. Isn’t it said we learn from past mistakes? Are we not stupid if we keep doing the same… Read more »

Mbutuma iwe wa DPP

Honeycomb Chidyaudzu

At lease during JB’s time the economy was on a sound footing than now because donors wre assisting in our budget but now things are different. The issue here is not the honorary degree but the timing. Our economy cannot aford that useless spending. Wake up Nyo.


But you Steven your Mother JOYCE BANDA was worse when it came to useless trips. Why it that you dint stop her then to bring sanity. Now you see you are not the right person to say this. was it because you were part of the entourage and got allowances then? SHUT UP

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