The way Malawi’s President Peter Mutharika goes back and forth on almost every issue is legendary, in fact award-winning. Malawians have in mind the issue of presidential salary hikes; appointments of parastatal board members; the issue of diplomatic appointments; and now the issue of his assets declaration.
Not long ago, the office of the Director of Assets Declaration made known the assets of President Peter Mutharika and other top public officials, of course after a request by some well-meaning Malawians.
This is when we knew that our beloved President is a billionaire (or is it multi-millionaire) with assets and bank accounts spread around the world. The assets include a house that Mutharika said he bought in 1982 at the price of US$750,000.00.
Obviously, the value of this house today is not the same as it was when Mutharika bought it. Real estate often appreciates in value as years go by. You would therefore expect the value to have quadrupled over the 30 years that our President has owned it.
It was unsettling, therefore, when reports from ‘very reliable sources’ suggested that houses in the part of suburbia where Peter Mutharika has his apartment are worth not more than US$400 today. As if this was not enough, Malawians were also hit by information from the Office of the Director of Assets Declarations that Mutharika’s assets were actually ‘mis-declared’.
Malawians were told our President did not have US$8 million in his US bank account, but US$2 million, and that he is not a billionaire after all like it was initially reported. Neither Mutharika nor his trusted aide, Ben Phiri, have come out to speak about this assets mis-declaration, or even to clarify about the real value of the US house, which does not seem to dovetail with the prevailing variables.
But typical us, Malawians, we have once again left this issue to drift down with the water as another none-issue. We have once again put our hands in the pockets and still whistle softly like nothing is happening.
But looking at this issue critically in relation to Mutharika’s governing style and his decision-making processes, a familiar pattern is emerging that is revealing, not a mistake, but a heinous plot that might just have gone bonkers due to pressure of circumstances.
The notion that the Office of the Director of Assets Declaration mistook the dollar sign, $,on Mutharika’s declaration for a figure 8, is pretty feeble, as it is wanting. Does that mean an office like that, which was set up by a whole Act of Parliament, just takes numbers at their face value without even carrying its own additions or verifying the amounts?
Surely, is this a good office with some lawyer at the helm? How many other mistakes has Mr. Chris Tukula made apart from the one on Mutharika’s declaration? How does Mutharika explain the inconsistency in value of his US house? How does he begin to explain buying a US$750,000 house in 1982, which may now be worth just US$350,000? Something, in fact many things, are simply not adding up here.
The question one is tempted to ask is, what is President Mutharika really up to?
President Mutharika must have been shocked by the resultant furore that his ‘mis-declaration’ created. It is possible that he and his cronies overlooked the fact that Lingson Belekanyama and his Parliamentary Finance Committee have powers to investigate and verify these declarations. The only damage control measure, therefore, was to put pressure on Tukula to revise down the value (s) and then own the ‘mistake’.
This whole [mis-declaring and lying] fiasco gives away a high handed plot by Mutharika whose only objective is to accumulate sinful wealth for himself at the expense of Malawians.
Were it not for the furore the declaration created, Mutharika’s wealth would have been inflated by a whopping K3.2 billion. It is a mark-up the President intends to ‘earn’ over the next three years, and that is no small change.
Where is this money going to come from? The answer obviously lies where the ocean meets the sky. Even at K800 million, Peter Mutharika would not have allowed his brother, Bingu, to be at the constant mercy of Atcheya during the UDF campaign days prior to 2004.
DPP could not have struggled the way it did during the last tripartite elections with regard to funding. The DPP nearly failed to hold a nomination certificate presentation function for its parliamentary candidates at Robins Park in Blantyre because there was no K300, 000 to pay for the venue.
One thing may be true, probably. Mutharika’s claimed assets have been accumulated over the year that he has been in government—and that is a fast lane.
As a people, Malawians must develop a critical mind because if we continue on this path, developing this country would be like searching for a proverbial needle in a haystack. All the pretentious nonsense from State House must be treated with a pinch of salt that it deserves.
Otherwise, our political space will continue to breed pathological liars and sycophants. For how long are we going to stand aside and look whilst our beautiful motherland is being auctioned for 30 pieces of shekels?
“You can fool some people some times but you can’t fool all the people all the time” ― Bob Marley
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