Mutharika’s strange wealth dents young bro’s political life in Malawi

The revelation that Malawi’s former President  late Bingu wa Mutharika had, within eight years of his reign, amassed unexplained and eye raising wealth amounting to over K61 billion has smashed up political life of his young brother, Peter.

Professor Peter Mutharika, who is President of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), a party founded by his departed brother, is running for the country’s presidency next year.

But while other sectors feel the issue needs thorough investigations before making conclusions, some political activists believe the “mysterious and shocking” wealth has dented the political life of Peter Mutharika.

The late Mutharika, at the time of assuming the high office in May 2004, declared that he had K154 million worth of assets (about US$4.3million-current exchange rate).

Peter Mutharika: Promises to continue where his brother left
Peter Mutharika: Promises to continue where his brother left

But barely eight years in power- by the time of his untimely death in April 2012- his wealth had reportedly accrued to more than K61 billion (about US$ 168 million).

Part of this estate was reportedly being kept in several commercial banks across the world like the Bank of Taiwan in South Africa which had US$35 million, United Nations Federation Credit Unit (about US$4.5 million), Standard Chartered Bank in Zimbabwe (about US$970 000) and New Jersey in USA had US$4 million.

Other bank accounts, at the time of his death, like at Barclays Bank of UK, Barclays Bank of Portugal and Barclays Bank of Zimbabwe had no money, according to an affidavit released by Yeremia Chihana of YMW Property Investment Limited and Registered Property Evaluator, who disclosed the figures to Malawi’s Daily Times and also hinted the estimated figures may be more than stated.

Locally, the revelation indicates that Mutharika’s estate had, among other banks, eight accounts with the First Merchant Bank (FMB).

These were in the names of Dr Bingu wa Mutharika which at the time of his death had K39,765,072.35, Ndata Farm (K10,650,785.92), two Bingu Silver Grey Foundation (which had K174,219,596.10 and K17,560,923.85 respectively) and Bineth Enterprises with a balance of K1,327,652.22.

FMB also had other accounts namely Bineth Education Fund which had K75,463,696.04 and two University of Southern Malawi’s accounts with K39,765,072.35 and K77,600,607.11 respectively.

“Although I have not yet completed my exercise, as the Estate is huge and somewhat complex and in various countries, my preliminary examination has approximately valued the entire Estate as a gross value of K 61,350, 437, 237. 62.

“This sum is from property and account balances held in bank accounts within and outside the jurisdiction namely Zimbabwe, South Africa and United States of America,” said Chihana in the affidavit.

But a Lilongwe based political observer, Suzgika Mkandawire, told Nyasa Times the exposure of such an unexplained accumulation of wealth will haunt Peter Mutharika politically as the dead has “no case.”

“He is dead [Bingu] and he has no case to answer but the dilemma will now be with Peter. He is the one safeguarding his brother’s respect and this issue will haunt him, it has actually damaged him politically,” said Mkandawire.

A lawyer and self-styled free-thinker, Malumbo Nyasulu, who described the matter as a clear case of criminal self-enrichment, said the fact that Peter “inherited his brother’s family responsibility”, he equally has to live with the issue.

“It is a depressing issue to every Malawian including his family members. But he [Peter] can’t turn his back on it. He will have to live with it and the important thing to do is to reorder his cards otherwise, politically, it has injured him,” observed Nyasulu.

But renowned rights activist, Justine Dzonzi, believes the revelation needs thorough investigations and explanation as the amount is far beyond his salaries and benefits that he might have acquired during his tenure.

Dzonzi, who is Executive Director of Justice Link, said the revelation confirms how difficult it is to hold the presidency accountable and transparent, a point also corroborated by the Executive Director of Institute of Policy Interaction, Rafiq Hajat.

Hajat observed that the absence of strict legislation pieces that push for presidents to declare their assets upon assuming power and after leaving it also contributes to the issues.

While late Mutharika declared assets upon his ascendancy to power in 2004, the incumbent Joyce Banda has until today refused to declare hers arguing she already did so when she held the office of the Vice President .

Prior to his death, Malawians led by the civil society organisations, wanted government to probe the value of Mutharika wealth and how he amassed it following the construction of his opulence multi-roomed White House styled Ndata House at his home in Thyolo.

Among notable property late Mutharika has managed to accumulate within the eight years include Ndata Mansion believed to be worth K14 billion, Presidential Villas, a hotel and Yatch in Portugal in total valued at US$78 million and the K300 million LONHRO Building in Limbe, Blantyre. Others include a personal Maybach Benz worth K65 million and a house in Nyambadwe, Blantyre worth K38 million.

At the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) where he was the Secretary General, late Mutharika, was reportedly fired because of his insatiable appetite for external travel and the resultant perks as well as gross abuse of office which included misuse of funds.

In December last year, unconfirmed figures indicated that Peter Mutharika, was the country’s eight richest with K48 billion worth of assets and  another former President Bakili Muluzi was the richest with K68 billion while the current President Joyce Banda came fourth with K54 billion.

Mulli Group of Companies and Ninkawa Transport came second and third with K62 and K58 billion respectively.

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