Orbituary: RIP Bingu wa Mutharika

Bingu wa Mutharika, 78, who was until his death the President of the Republic of Malawi, passed on Thursday April 5, 2012 – reportedly of cardiac arrest.

He was born Webster Ryson Thom on February 24, 1934 in Thyolo, of late Ryson Thom Mutharika and late Eleni Thom Mutharika. Bingu wa Mutharika received his higher education in India, where he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Economics. Later, he attended the Delhi School of Economics where he graduated with a masters’ degree in Economics.

He reportedly obtained a Ph.D. in Development Economics from Pacific Western University of Los Angeles, California (USA) and completed several short courses on Business Management, Financial Analysis, Trade Promotion, Political Leadership, Regional Economic Co-operation and Human Relations.

Mutharika:No more

He was first married to Late Ethel Zvauya Mutharika, a very well respected gracious, quiet and very humble lady of Zimbabwean parentage, with whom he had four children. The late Ethel died of cancer on May 28, 2007. Bingu wa Mutharika remarried Callista Chimombo three years later, on May 1, 2010.

Hailed as liberator from chronic food shortages and awarded the highest accolades any living man can get for the good work he did in his first term as the president of the Republic of Malawi, his style of leadership in his second term caused much suffering.

As a result, his popularity took a plunge and things worsened in his last two years, as the economy faltered and Malawi faced unprecedented chronic fuel scarcity, foreign exchange reserve shortages and frequent power blackouts.

Protesters took to the streets in July 2010, demanding immediate government action to address the economic plight. Security forces cracked down on the protesters leaving at least 19 dead.

President Bingu wa Mutharika will be remembered mostly for his uncompromising approach in dealing with even the most contentious issues.

While this approach paid some dividends in his first administrative term, the same intransigent approach can be equally blamed for some Malawians’ receiving news of his demise as a cause for celebration.

As observed ages ago, the evil that men do lives after them while the good is oft interred with their bones. Now, before the good deeds that Bingu wa Mutharika did are interred with his bones – whenever his lieutenants deem it fit – a few words from us at the Nyasa Times, whom he loved to hate, are in order.

First and foremost, this is neither the time, nor the place to indict the late Bingu wa Mutharika on any grounds; and we pray that everybody gets this right, the man is beyond our reach now.

We at the Nyasa Times will not mete out judgement on him or his tenure or his family or his associates; the Almighty and historians are better-placed to do that; and we beg our readers to desist from this, lest they too, be judged.

But while we will desist from indicting nor judging, neither shall we indulge in singing elaborate songs of praise. We will – for the record – dwell only on what we sincerely believe is true of the departed President Bingu wa Mutharika, who was a true son of Malawi.

We believe that, gifted the opportunity to lead Malawi, he put all his heart and soul into developing the country, hence the accolades.

Even before that, we believe that he dedicated his life to making Africa a better continent, hence the Africa-wide and international respect evidenced by the already inflowing condolences.

We want to have faith that in everything he did, he did it to his maximum ability and for this, we want to hail him. All of us, whether residing in Malawi or in the diaspora, should benefit by drawing lessons from his rare diligence.

Because of his industriousness, he touched us all in different ways; whichever way one opts to view his deeds and actions. To name some specifics:

·       when he mourned, for instance at the time his first wife passed on; we all mourned with him;

·       when he celebrated, for example during his second marriage; we revelled with him; and

·       each time we sang ‘Oh God Bless Our Land of Malawi!`, he stood up and sang with the rest of us.

Why fellow country men and women, should we today, fail to join the acting President, Her Excellency Mrs Joyce Banda, as she leads Malawi in a solemn period of mourning and a series of ceremonies giving and offering last respect to the man who, from the date he first took oath of office way back in 2004, tried his best to meet our rigorous expectations of a good father, and a good leader?

To put it differently, why should we today fail to honour the man we looked up to, for national solutions, and most importantly, the man we blamed for our own frustrations?

Before we conclude, we want to put it on record that the Nyasa Times,  we are very aggrieved at his passing on and more so at the way his lieutenants have handled events surrounding his death.

We hope this is only temporary madness and that they will soon come back to their senses, and do the right thing, by the Republican Constitution and the Constitution alone.

To conclude:

·       at Bingu’s accomplishments we celebrated,

·       at Bingu’s failures we grumbled /demonstrated as per our constitutional right,

·       at Bingu’s death – as well-bred Malawians and as a God-fearing people – let us mourn him and accord him all the respect due to a fallen head of state.

May the soul of departed President Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, born Webster Ryson Thom, rest in eternal peace.

Of all things, he loved peace the most, therefore in his death let peace and sanity prevail in mother Malawi!


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