Mutharika courts chiefs on Malawi Kwacha devaluation

President Bingu wa Mutharika over the weekend met some traditional chiefs in a bid to drum up support against International Monetary Fund (IMF)’s insistence to devalue the local currency, Kwacha.

Mutharika held a two-day caucus at Sanjika Palace between Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon where among other things he persuaded the chiefs on how to dart the local masses on the IMF agenda of devaluating the currency again, Nyasa Times has learnt.

According to one top government official who attended the meeting, Mutharika urged the traditional chiefs who were drawn from several districts across the country including Thyolo, Zomba, Chikhwawa and Dedza to help his government win over the people trust over the poor performance of his administration.

Chiefs being used to back Mutharika against devaluation

“With opposition siding with the international donor community on the devaluation of Kwacha, it was wise for the President to have the local chiefs on his side. The President had a very successful meeting with them. They wined and dined while educating them on the dangers of further devaluating Kwacha,” disclosed the source.

According to the source, the chiefs will be used by government to advance Mutharika’s stance on devaluation of Kwacha through the country’s public media houses Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) radios and Television (TVM) among other avenues through public resources.

Mutharika has publically challenged the IMF on the decision to further devaluate Kwacha. During the opening of budget review meeting of Parliament, Mutharika vehemently stood his grounds arguing he will not bow down to IMF and international donor community’s pressure to devaluate the local currency.

“You can see that almost every sector of the society is backing the IMF. The President has no option but to ask the local chiefs rally behind him in order to overcome the pressure. As matter of fact they have been promised a lot if they manage to win the rural masses on the issue of devaluation,” added the source.

The grouping of the chiefs consisted Traditional Authorities (T/A)s, Group Village Headmen and Paramount Chiefs.

The chiefs have already started their campaign against the devaluation of the local currency through state television where they are vehemently rejecting the calls by IMF to devaluate Kwacha. Among other arguments, the chiefs are citing the rising cost of living once Kwacha is devaluated as one major factor to affect poor masses once IMF agendas are advanced.

Meanwhile, economists and representatives of the civic society groups are questioning the competence and credibility of traditional chiefs in commenting on devaluation.

Professor of economics at Chancellor College of the University of Malawi, Ben Kalua told a local radio: “They don’t know anything about economics. There are technocrats in this country who studied economics and they are the ones to be left to make decisions on these issue.”

Executive director of Justice Link Justine Dzonzi said the move by the chiefs is a staged move by government.

“They must have been told to rally support behind the president on this particular issue, and that’s why it’s difficult to attach any specific value to what they have said,” Dzonzi said on Daybreak Malawi programme on Capital FM.

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