Former president and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) leader Peter Mutharika has been granting interview to the local media on what looks like reputation management over his legacy by stating that he has contributed positively to the country other than what is regarded of him.
From his beachside sprawling private retirement home in Mangochi, Mutharika has maintained the same script in interviews with The Nation newspaper, Zodiak TV, MBC , MIJ and Nyasa Times.
Mutharika who dethroned Malawi’s first female president, Joyce Banda, in a hotly contested election on May 20, 2014, the results of which were disputed, said he came to power when the economy was very unstable, amid the Cashgate scandal and when “the country’s development partners had withdrawn budget support because of the looting scandal.”
He, however, went on to say that, Malawi had enjoyed positive economic growth.
“I was the first president in Malawi to run this economy without donor support and we managed. We struggled, but we managed to bring inflation to single digits from around 30 percent, interest rates from 40 percent to around 16 percent in terms of the policy rate, we managed to stabilise the exchange rate. When we came in there was less than one month of import cover, but when we left it was more than four months—over a billion US dollars in both private and official reserves, so I think we did quite well,” he said.
An educator and lawyer with experience in the field of international law, said his administration also recorded success for the introduction of skills training through community colleges, which has created a lot of jobs.
“The programme has enabled young people, immigrants and minorities to try and move into middle class. People are creating their own jobs. I am proud, for example, that Kasama Community College was built by graduates from some of these community technical colleges,” he said.
Mutharika, the younger brother of late President Bingu wa Mutharika, said the third part of his legacy is infrastructure development.
“It is important that we have good infrastructure in this country, especially roads. We have built roads all over the country in all the regions more than any other administration before. For example, Karonga-Songwe Road, Mzuzu Nkhata Bay, Liwonde-Mangochi Road, Thyolo-Makwasa-Thekerani and so many others.
“We have built the Tsangano-Neno Road to open up areas… In the universities, including Polytechnic, University of Malawi (Unina) in Zomba, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Luanar), Malawi University of Science and Technology (Must) we built new infrastructure there.”
Mutharika also credits to his legacy that under his rule, Malawi attracted foreign direct investment.
“No country can develop without the infusion of foreign capital. We embarked on an expansive programme to bring in investment. And so, for the first time we had investment conferences, we reformed Malawi Investment and Trade Centre that resulted in one-stop centres,” he said.
Mutharika said his successor President Lazarus Chakwera last Friday opened the Golden Peacock five-star hotel in Blantyre, a project which he initiated.
“ I personally negotiated in China and it has changed the skyline in Blantyre. There is also the Grand Business Park in Lilongwe, I negotiated that. When completed, people will no longer have to go to China to buy goods. It will also create a lot of jobs,” said the DPP leader who is now 80-years-old.
Mutharika continued: “But my legacy is not just about what I did as President. It started in 2009 when I became a member of Parliament and minister. You hear stories even by your own people saying that where ever APM [Mutharika[ went to be a minister it was a disaster. I ask them what disaster was there, they can’t mention. At the Ministry of Justice, I started the National Registration initiative—that was my idea and worked on a Bill to facilitate that and our registration system is one of the best among those taking place anywhere in the world.
“ I also introduced the concept of credit reference bureau. For the first time we now have a credit reference bureau—I introduced that while I was at the Ministry of Justice and it has been a success.
“They say the Ministry of Education was a disaster when I was there just because of a University of Malawi strike. But that strike was not about academic freedom; that strike was about challenging the government. It was about regime change. In fact, I am the one who persuaded the President to reinstate those four lecturers, but they don’t know that. Must [Malawi University of Science and Technology] was created under my leadership at the Ministry of Education and I was heavily involved in its creation. Luanar was created under my leadership. Delinking Bunda from Unima happened when I was at the Ministry of Education. The introduction of the National Council for Higher Education was my idea because I was concerned about university standards so I started the council so that it can accredit universities.
“They say it was a disaster at Foreign Affairs because of the expulsion of the British High Commissioner. I was not even in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when that happened, I was Minister of Education. It was Professor Etta Banda who was at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at that time. But it was I who persuaded the President that look, I am an expert in international relations, why don’t you let me handle this, so he appointed me Minister of Foreign Affairs and I led a delegation consisting of myself, Goodall Gondwe, George Chaponda, Nicholas Dausi and Ben Phiri. We first went to London where we met William Hague himself, the Foreign Secretary, but also members of the Africa Committee of the House of Lords and the House of Commons. From there we went to Berlin because there was also some trouble with the Germans and from there I went to Brussels where I met the European Union. The British ended up sending another High Commissioner and that was the beginning of a new relationship and we now have an excellent relationship with the British Government.”
Mutharika said despite what he did, some people continue to say he was a disaster in every ministry he went to.
“I don’t know what they are talking about. They are so biased against me that they see things that are not there. So, the things I did in those ministries are also part of my legacy. So, if you judge me fairly, my legacy would be strong.
“But the trouble is people decided from the beginning to be against me. There are two reasons, one, that I had been outside the country for a very long time and somehow people did not feel that I am a legitimate Malawian, so there was that resentment from the beginning. Second is the resentment that another member of the same family was also the President of this country. So, some people decided from the beginning that no matter what I do, I have failed. But if you look at what I have done as an adviser to the president, a minister and president I think I have contributed positively to the country,” he said.
Mutharika was defeated by Chakwera in a court sanctioned presidential election in June but during media interviews, said he did not lose the polls which he described as the worst in the country’s history, but that his party lost government.
He said the vote on June 23 2020 was marred with violence as his DPP election agents were beaten, abducted and denied access to some polling centres.
“The so called fresh presidential elections were a farce,” said Mutharika.
He said the courts had even legislated from the bench a majority threshold rule of declaring a winner with 50% of votes unlike in past elections where the first-past-the-post was declared winner.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :