Former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential hopeful Arthur Peter Mutharika has hit back at critics who accuse him of not having a good track record to run for the top post, saying his positive side is not being highlighted.
Critics have argued that Mutharika does not have a good track record as a cabinet minister during his late brother, Bingu wa Mutharika’s reign and that the presentation of bills that were deemed irrelevant and in bad taste were enacted into law during his tenure.
They also fault him on the academic freedom saga, in which Mutharika presided over the Ministry of Education and failed to resolve the impasse.
But speaking in an interview on Straight Talk programme on Capital FM monitored by Nyasa Timeson Thursday evening, Mutharika shrugged off the criticism , especially on the university standoff.
“That is completely nonsense. It failed because there was political interference,” he said.
“It was not a failure. People were saying that they were doing that because of the presidency. That’s all. Because they don’t want me to be president for whatever reasons,” said the law professor.
He pointed out that there is still turmoil at the University of Malawi as the workers are still withdrawing their services, saying “ Am I there now?”
Mutharika added: “Ask those people who were talking that kind of rubbish why there is strike now. Why are they not being resolved, they have been going for months now. Peter Mutharika is no longer there.”
Lecturers at the University of Malawi are demanding a 113% pay rise, saying this is justified as it takes into account the recent devaluation of the local currency by 59%.
Mutharika, who served as Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister and also Minister of Foreign Affairs, denied that he was instrumental in passing the repressive laws during the DPP regime.
“Every law that was passed in parliament were passed on the basis of Law Commission,” he explained.
He defended passing a bill in parliament allowing 16-year-olds to marry with the consent of their parents.
Mutharika said the government wanted to raise the bar but following the outcry, they bill was not assented into law by former president, though it was passed in parliament.
He however noted that legal age of youth to marry with parental consent is “now back to 15 and nobody is not making any noise. If you look at the constitution, you can marry at the age of 15.”
Added Mutharika: “Are we happy to have 15 instead of 16?”
Mutharika said most people who criticise him do so out of “perception other than reality.”
Rhodes Msonkho , anchoring the interview programme , asked Mutharika to comment on the deportation of British High Commissioner for criticising the President and thereby straining diplomatic relations between Lilongwe and London.
Mutharika said he had been minister of foreign affairs for “four months” and that he did his best but ignored the deportation saga.
“Each year there over 10 ,000 speeches that are made in the UN. The speech I made in Istanbul at the conference of Least Development Countries, it was selected as best speech in the UN system that year.
“As a result of that, the following year Malawi was asked , assisted by Belgium to chair every UN committee because of that speech,” he said.
Mutharika said he deserves some credit for positive things he has done for the country.
“We never give credit to somebody. That’s the problem we have. We always want to look at the negatives,” he pointed out.
Mutharika again vehemently denied that he has dual citizenship, saying he is a citizen of Malawi, not of the United States of America as alleged by his detractors.
“I have never been a dual citizen,” he said.
Detractors had lined up citizenship as one of the tools to dent his eligibility to contest the 2014 presidential elections. The citizenship questions were not raised when he contested successfully the 2009 parliamentary elections.
Among the requirements, one needs to be a Malawi citizen to contest in the legislative polls.
Mutharika said: “Once a Malawian always a Malawian.”
During the interview, Mutharika took time to explain that there have been no squabbles in deceased estate of former president.
He said former first lady Callista Mutharika, was taking a breather in UK, but retains this week where she will be at Ndata Palace.
The presidential hopeful also denied that Ndata is a multi-million dollar mansion, saying “its a five bedroom, all what you see is a veranda.”
Mutharika dismisses as untrue the story that he has been paying people to attend his political rallies.
“How can you give money to 15,000 people,” he said.
“People say there is no smoke without fire but here a lot of times, there is smoke without fire,” he said.
Asked if he is a millionaire, he responded: “I cannot answer that.”
Mutharika said he was confident he will be selected at DPP convention as presidential candidate and win the 2014 general elections.
He pledged that he will offer renewal to the electorate.
“We have good policies, we have people on the ground and we will make our case to the nation,” he said.
He said at the convention “I will make a major policy statement and it will be upon the people. If people accept that, they will vote for me, if people don’t accept, the world will go on.”
DPP is scheduled to hold its national convention in November, 2012.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :