The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government is in the middle of some vexing economic headache. The local currency, Kwacha, is on a downward spiral and losing value at a breakneck speed; inflation is on the rise; donors are still holding on to their purse and don’t appear to relent anytime sooner; service delivery has ebbed to pathetic levels; and civil servants are threatening to go on a rampage over deteriorating work and living standards.
Pretty soon, fuel and forex will begin become a thing of the past, as it was during the era of the late Bingu wa Mutharika, Peter Mutharikas’s brother. Within the five months that the DPP government has been in power, it has demonstrated a rare knack at concentrating on small issues.
Its approach to and communication on major policy issues has been found to be reactionary and very much below par. Presidential public goofs also appear to go unabated, and one wonders what a small army of advisors the President recently hired is doing.
From his public pronunciations, conduct and the way the issue of ‘cashgate’ was handled and communicated, Mutharika appears to be a very bitter man especially about his ‘detention’ by the previous administration over treason charges. He called the charges ‘stupid charges’ when he became Head of State, implying they were tramped-up.
Mutharika has also rewarded almost all individuals who were detained with him on treason charges for attempting to prevent constitutional order after the death of his brother in April 2012.
His co-detainees including the infamous ‘Midnight Six’ such as Kondwani Nakhumwa, Goodall Gondwe, Patricial Kaliati, Henry Mussa, Nicholas Dausi, Vuwa Kaunda and Jean Kalirani are now either cabinet ministers or are in some ‘presidential advisory position’.
President Mutharika enjoys immunity from prosecution as a sitting Head of State. The ‘Midnight Six’ do not. However, treason charges against them were dropped when President Mutharika came to power. This is a chiding posture from the ruling party and a what-can-you-do-now jab at anyone who cares about ‘no-one-is-above-the-law’. It perfectly dovetails with Mutharika’s public pronunciations about being a political victim of the previous government.
Although he claims he is not a witch-hunter and that political vendetta is not in his vocabulary, President Mutharika does not miss an opportunity to tell Malawians about his ‘incarceration’ every time he goes on public podiums, or gets any chance to speak. He often seethes with anger every time he talks about his purported ‘victimization.’
By making his being remanded in a police cell as a running theme of his presidency so far, Mutharika is making a subtle statement of anger and vengeance. It is clear the President won’t let bygones be bygones and is intent at using the ‘victimization’ namby-pamby to persecute perceived political enemies.
The government media, or what is left of it, has been blazing with all sorts of negative allegations about the former PP government.
The gloomy economic climate does not seem to deter President Mutharika from carrying out his political elimination scheme.
In fact, it seems the more the economy goes south, the more Mutharika and his cronies become firm on their resolve to eliminate political opponents, especially members of the previous ruling People’s Party (PP).
The most interesting aspect about the ‘incarceration’ talk is Mutharika’s constant reference on “spending time in jail”. He often muses that he spent time in jail when he was only remanded at a police station where he enjoyed some considerable freedom.
“Spending time in jail” is therefore a deliberate strategy to create a storm in a cup and use it for political expediency.
One of the most interesting relationships in Malawian politics is that of the incumbents and their predecessors. It has proved to be often tricky and flux.
Examples have been many and Mutharika, despite his repeated public talk of reconciliation, has not proved to be beyond the temptation to victimize his predecessor for no apparent reason.
It is clear from the foregoing that President Mutharika is intent at taking a militant approach to solving what he claims is ‘victimization’ at the hands of former rulers. All evidence is pointing to a systematic plot to ensure the previous leadership is incarcerated at whatever cost.
President Mutharika is actually proving to be just another swaggering Rambo who is spoiling for war. Time will be the best judge!
- Hastings Kandoje is a Malawian social and political commentator. He writes in his own right and views expressed in this article are those of an author and not for Nyasa Times