Mutharika brothers: Sibling rivalry or divine intervention?

Something strange seems to be happening between the two Mutharika brothers. In Rasta Lingo, the great Jamaican poet Mutabaruka, would say:

“Big things a gwaan between de two bruders!”

On one hand, while for all intents and purposes they are making a good show of supporting each other, the elder brother is for whatever reason pulling out all the stops in ensuring that the younger brother is at the wrong end of any crisis that hits Malawi. And at the pace the younger brother, a 2014 presidential aspirant, is going, he will reach 2014 firmly established in the electorate’s minds as a hopeless leader.

On the other hand, while the younger brother is enjoying all the perks that come with ministerial positions and more; he is doing very little to advise his elder brother on the consequences of his words and deeds. Let us talk about the spate of bad laws that have been passed in this presidential term of office for instance. One cannot believe that the president’s brother is a world renowned constitutional expert. He does not seem to care what sort of legacy his brother will leave, which is quite shocking, unless of course he is playing tit-for-tat for being caught at the wrong end of his brother’s bad judgement.

Mutharika brothers

Let us go back memory lane to the genesis of the Academic Freedom stand-off that simply refuses to die. One sees that while Mutharika Junior was the Minister responsible and therefore better placed to nip the crisis in the bud, Mutharika Senior quickly stepped in and complicated matters further.

When all that the lecturers were asking for was an apology for the Inspector General’s trespass, big brother came in and declared in no uncertain terms that the Inspector General would apologise to no-one.

As if that was enough, when there seemed to be light at the end of the tunnel, and when the lecturers had in principle agreed to return to class, he came in and is reported to have instructed the UNIMA council that the four CCASU leaders can only be reinstated over his dead body, or something to that effect.

Result is: Professor Peter Mutharika, the Democratic Progress Party (DPP) de fact flag carrier, is firmly established in the history of Unima as the minister (and a former university don himself) who failed to solve a simple crisis.

When the elder brother in the recent cabinet reshuffle moved the younger brother from the Ministry of Education to an apparently less contentious ministry, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it seemed like; at last the brothers had reached a cease fire or a compromise.

But recent developments have proven otherwise. In fact, it seems that the elder is now bent on establishing the younger sibling as a failure in the international arena; and this is what this write up is all about.

In open defiance of the much-touted but now questioned (by IMF at least) zero deficit budget, the younger brother has been as the Minster responsible for Foreign Affairs, traversing the globe, reportedly courting back donors who abandoned Malawi thanks to his elder brothers lack of tact and diplomacy.

Just when the Minister of Finance, Ken Lipenga was telling the whole wide world that things are looking good with the British and while the younger brother is in London having high level reconciliatory talks, Bingu slaps Mr William Hague – the British Foreign Secretary, in the face.

Mr Fergus Cochrane-Dyet, he says, was not declared persona non grata by the Malawi Government; the Malawi media is the one that said so. The Malawi Government, he goes on, simply said that they had lost trust in him and asked for his replacement. Now who can better define English terminology between say, me a pure Lhomwe and Mr Hague – and Englishman? Who I ask?

“The facts of the case are that the Malawian Government expelled Mr Cochrane-Dyet,” Mr William Hague as countered.

While this was not the first time the elder Mutharika has irked donors, this time he went way overboard. In the first place, the medium he used to insult Mr Hague’s intelligence was a particularly poor choice. Of all the media options available to him, he chose the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)!

In the second place, came the language and the tone. When President Mutharika utters warlike or other inappropriate statements in Chichewa, Dr Ntaba and others usually come in to “clarify” and as if he is some old biblical prophet, they normally “interpret” what he really meant. But now he was speaking in English on the BBC, and doing so very arrogantly.

Now how his DPP “disciples” can come in to “interpret” that sort of “gospel” to Mr Hague and company is difficult to fathom. And just where will they hold the educative and interpretative press conference to explain what the Malawi really meant? Quite an uphill task they have on this one. Mission impossible I would add.

The bottom line is that in the brotherly battle of tit-for-tat, the elder Mutharika is leading and doing by a very wide margin. Imagine, as if putting the Chanco Stand-off beyond his younger brother’s capability was not enough, and when the younger Mutharika is in the UK trying to find it in his clueless fashion how to sort the Cochrane-Dyet deportation mess, big brother once again, comes and messes up everything!

With the recent BBC Interview, Big Brother Mutharika has once again guaranteed that his young brother comes out looking inept, ineffectual, clueless and an idiot in his recent appointment as Minister of Foreign Affairs. May be he will even come out looking worse that he did as a Minister of Education.

And to rub salt to the wound, after the younger Mutharika’s successful and generally well-received address to the United Nations, the elder brother is at it again. This time he wants to ensure that Malawi and the Mutharika name or brand loses any respect or admiration that the global body may have rediscovered in Malawi.

The UN special envoy from the Office of Secretary General, Under Secretary General Sahle-Work Zewde, has reportedly been given a cold shoulder for over 10 days in her efforts to meet President Bingu wa Mutharika to discuss the on-going impasse between government and the civil society. Ms Zewde was sent into the country by no other than UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon.

This is another mess that will pile and stink at the door of the Minister responsible for Foreign Affairs who is none other than the President’s young brother. Is anybody seeing what I am seeing here? The question that this bad blood between blood brothers poses is: is this a typically bad case of sibling rivalry or is it that providence is once again telling Malawians that:

“Please my people, try anyone else but not this man! Do not give him any shot at the high office of your land. If you do there will be hell to pay; and do not at that time seek my face?”

The answers my friends are living in each of us, be advised.

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