Muluzi says ‘I will not be intimidated’

Malawi’s former president Bakili Muluzi on Saturday returned home from South Africa where he was receiving treatment and told a news conference on arrival that he will not be cowed into submission by his successor, President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Muluzi arrived through Blantyre’s  Chileka Airport at noon on a South African Airways Boeing 737. He was welcomed by thousands of supporters of the former ruling United Democratic Front (UDF).

They chanted songs in praise of his son, presidential aspirant Atupele Muluzi, arrested earlier this week over violence which broke out after police tear gassed his supporters, but released on bail Friday night.

The supporters sung “Malawi muno sitifunanso wina koma Atupele, alamulire. Chigawo cha kumpoto aah yemweyo, yemweyo, chigawo chapakati aaah yemweyo yemweyo, chigawo cha kumwela yemweyoo (In Malawi we want Atupele to be president from north, central and south it’s Atupele Muluzi).

Since announcing his presidential ambitions, the 34-year-old lawmaker  has caused quite a stir in the country and enjoys support particularly among the youth who form the largest voting bloc.

Welcoming Muluzi from the plane were his sister Mrs Esnat Katema,  UDF secretary-general Kennedy Makwangwala, the party’s leader in parliament Ibrahim Matola, former Justice Minister Peter Fatchi, the clergy and Sheiks.

Muluzi: I will not be intimidated
Also attracting the attention of many was staunch Malawi Congress Party (MCP) supporter Mai Dinala who was putting on her Kamuzu Banda badge.

Addressing journalists at the VIP lounge, Muluzi accused President Mutharika of intimidating political opponents, critics and damaging the country’s image as an emerging democracy.

The retired president said he will not keep quite when Malawi is retrogressing to autocracy.

“I am not going to keep quiet,” said Muluzi.

He also accused Mutharika of using state machinery, Police and other law enforcing agencies such as the Anti Corruption Bureau to persecute opposition leaders and critics, saying he will not be intimidated any more.

“I will not be intimidated by Mutharika. You can record that,” said Muluzi.

“Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) was established by me not as an instrument to try to create tension or target the opposition,” he said, explaining that ACB is an institution to bust graft in the country.

Apparently, there are reports that Mutharika is using ACB to intimidate even members of  his ruling DPP by opening dockets to silence them. The victims include former finance minister Goodall Gondwe, speaker of parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda and DPP Director of Youth Frank Mwenefumbo.

Asked by a reporter if he will come out of political retirement to fight Mutharika, the former president who defeated the late dictator Kamuzu Banda in the country’s first multi-party elections and ruled Malawi from 1994 to 2004, said: “This is a beginning of a long journey to bring back democracy.

“Even the clergy who retire from preaching they are asked to give a prayer sometimes”.

Muluzi, handpicked Mutharika to run for president under the UDF in 2004 but the two fell out after Mutharika took control of power and he ditched the UDF to form DPP.

The former president further accused Mutharika of “persecuting” him and his family including Atupele who was arrested earlier in the week and has since been charged with an offence of “disobeying a district commissioner.”

“I am accusing Bingu wa Mutharika of attacking my family. Can he leave me in peace and my family,” Muluzi told reporters.

The former president said he was “disappointed” with the crackdown of critics, saying the arbitrary arrests of lawyer Ralph Kasambara and Malawi Human Rights Commission chair John Kapito were part of the crackdown campaign.

He called on Mutharika to “leave democracy which we fought for, intact.”

Asked whether he regrets handpicking Mutharika as his successor, Muluzi said like in marriage “when one asks a hand in marriage, you don’t know the behaviour of the partner wholesale. If I knew Mutharika would do what he is doing to Malawians, I would not have campaigned for him.”

Muluzi said he had been cleared by his doctors to come to Malawi but told to return within 14 days “because I have not finished my treatment.”

From the airport, Muluzi went straight to Mwaiwathu Hospital to visit his son Atupele.

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