Malawi President Peter Mutharika has said presidency is not a job one can really prepare, saying his one year in office has been “very challenging” and “very exciting.”
Mutharika said in an interview to mark the first anniversary of his presidency published by New African magazine that he has “enjoyed” his first year in power, saying “we have faced new issues that I never expected.”
During the interview, New African editor at large, Baffour Ankomah , asked Mutharika if serving his elder brother, late president Bingu wa Mutharika as advisor and ministerial position prepared him for the presidency, he said one cannot “really prepare” the job of President, because “it is a job without any description.”
He said: “In most cases you apply for a job and they want to see your qualifications, MBA in financial management or MBA in marketing or something. But in this job, as president, there are no qualifications. You just do it!”
Mutharika continued: “The important thing about my current job is to understand issues when there are issues, real issues, and then to sift between the issues and non-issues, and find ways of resolving the real issues.
The Malawi leader , however, said he “felt prepared” to lead Malawi because of his 40 years living abroad and the experience in the cabinet under Bingu regime, and also his long academic and international career, “all combined to prepare me for this job. “
Nonetheless, Mutharika said “nobody can be fully prepared” for Presidency of a country “because the things that happen are so many and unpredictable that you try to deal with them as you go along. There is a saying that experience is the best teacher. Politics is dynamic and varies from country to country. “
He said: “I used to dream that one day I was going to be President. Now when you want to succeed in life, you need to familiarise yourself with what you want to be in life. My inclusion in my brother’s cabinet made me understand Malawi’s politics practically. Once or twice in the past, I had been consulted for the democratic constitution of Malawi, but I had little knowledge of the practicality of politics until I became a cabinet minister.”
Asked to give a rating of his one year in power, Mutharika said it has been challenging and exciting.
“We have faced new issues that I never expected. Our society is dynamic; every society in Africa now is dynamic. There are new challenges that come up every day, every week. So yes, I have very much enjoyed it,” he said.
Mutharika said his first year has been a mixed bag.
“A mixed bag in the sense that when I came into office, Malawi was facing challenges as a result of the plunder of government resources due to a corruption scandal famously called Cashgate, which had led to the withdrawal of budget support by traditional donors.
“Secondly, at the time the government was putting in place economic and financial reforms to restore donor confidence at the beginning of this year, the country was hit by devastating floods in 15 of our 28 districts, and there was a state of disaster in those regions. The government, with its limited resources, worked tirelessly to respond to the needs of the affected people. Might I add that we are very grateful for all the international support we received during this period,” said the Malawi leader who a fortnight ago turned 75 years.
Mutharika painted a rosy picture of the economic situation, saying prices of goods and services became stable.
“The national currency, the kwacha, is also stable and gaining strength against the major trading currencies,” he said in the interview.
However, the current situation shows Kwacha is falling.
Mutharika said his administration is delivering on its key election campaign promises, and that the donor community is starting to show interest in the country again.
“This gives me more confidence and determination, going forward,” he asserted.
On delivering his electoral pledges, Mutharika said he promised Malawians during campaign three things: public service reform, community colleges for skills training, and a housing subsidy for cement and iron sheets.
“I want to see that in 10 years’ time there will be no house in this country roofed with grass or built with mud, they should all be bricks, and cement, and roofed with iron sheets,” said Mutharika.
“So in fulfilment of the campaign promises, we have launched a community colleges programme. There will be a college in each of the 28 districts of the country. So far we have built 11, but by the end of this year we will have a college in each of the 28 districts. By the end of next year or after, we will have one community college in each of the 123 constituencies in the country.
“This will bring a huge change in skills development because it is difficult to get a university place here. Only 10% of our students go to university, so there are a lot of kids who have nowhere to go. That is why I promised community colleges during the campaign, and we are doing it,” he said.
Mutharika also said he promised a housing subsidy of cement and iron sheets for “the bottom section of our economy.”
He explained that the housing subsidy is not for everyone but “the people at the lower end of the ladder, so they can have decent housing. And we are doing it.”
Mutharika said his government is on course delivering the public service reform.
“For example, the Presidency has given up some of its powers. You know it is unusual for people to give up their powers, but I have done that. We have already significantly reduced the powers of the Presidency by transferring some departments from the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) to relevant ministries. This means the OPC is now focussing on its core functions.
“We are now reforming the financial sector, the one that led to the Cashgate scandal. After that we will reform the parastatals and the judiciary. These are the things I promised, and we have made progress fulfilling them.”Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :