11“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11
President Bingu wa Mutharika, also known as Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika, was a fraud. Single-handedly chosen by his predecessor President Bakili Mulizi, Mutharika (whom I call Mutharika I), sailed to State House on the coattails of Muluzi’s massive countrywide campaign theatrical antics. Throughout the campaign, Mutharika would be unveiled by Mulizi, requested to say a few words, and all he ever said was: Bingu woyeee! Muluzi woyeee! It was not a big guessing game that the entire civil service and many other Malawians used the catchphrase: “Tibvala Gwanda, mibingu kulibe!” (We are wearing the T-shirt, there are no clouds).
Despite the frenzy former Lower Shire giant created amongst Malawi’s intelligentsia, Bingu won the day and was whisk to the Presidency. This was not before of course, Muluzi and his henchmen prevented other contenders for the UDF ticket. Such contenders as Aleke Banda and Harry Thomson were hurled out of the convention hall by the legendary bully, Dumbo Lemani. And by the day of the inauguration, as Muluzi and Mutharika 1 drove to the Stadium, I was in bed, sick; as sick as I would later be in 2016 when Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump. Both are the epitomes of the big steal.
While he participated in the running of the clown-show uuuuuu campaign, he appeared to Malawians as a real big wimpy. Ironically, on inauguration day, just as Mutharika was about to finish the first quarter of his statement, I suddenly stopped being sick and sat up to listen. I later took a pen and paper to take notes of what he was saying to Malawians. Rumor has it that Muluzi had given Mutharika a statement that he wrote, but never saw the light of day. There was something very similar to the song Mutharika wove in his words, the first time he spoke from his economic veins, a song we had not been allowed to hear him sing for himself as he called for our votes. The more I listened to Bingu’s speech, the more he sounded like Kamuzu Banda ; something about mending the economy through agriculture, enhancing food security at the household level. The economic engineer was replacing the political engineer Muluzi
It took Mutharika precisely six months to ditch the party that brought him to the State House. He chose Chancellor College (now known as the University of Malawi) to make the announcement at a place he spoke out against massive corruption and corrupt practices in the UDF political party. The new party he established was Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). In two years, Malawi was on a path to economic recovery through a number of policies adopted by his administration. All the while a very bitter UDF and lead henchmen Lemani and Kachimbwinda were on record stating Mutharika got to State House on stolen votes, and Sam Mpasu stating Mutharika was a hard ticket to sell to Malawians.
This hard-to-sell ticket brought economic prosperity through numerous steering away from Muluzi’s policies both locally, regionally, and internationally. He started by moving into the New State House. Bingu renamed development projects that bear former President Kamuzu Banda’s signature, among them Kamuzu Highway, Kamuzu International Airport, Kamuzu Stadium. He cut ties with Taiwan and established ties with China who funded among others, the new Parliament Building, Kamuzu Banda Mausoleum, Kamuzu Highway four-way carriage, and the very novel inland port in Nsanje that connects Malawi to the Indian Ocean via the Shire River in Malawi and the Zambezi in Mozambique.
The pivotal policy that Bingu made that remains in the hearts of Malawians was the introduction of the Farm Input Subsidy Program (FIST) to every Malawian in its first year, and to vulnerable Malawians in the second and subsequent years. The program shift that defied the UN, World Bank, and other international partners led to Malawi elevation to household food security on the one hand, and a donor to Zambia, South Africa and Haiti In 2010 Bingu refused to make the donation to Haiti in monetary form to the World Food Program. He insisted on sending instead bags of Malawi rice, complete with “Donation from the People of Malawi” stamped on every bag. He added silos to supplement those built by Kamuzu, encouraging fish farming on Lake Malawi.
Bingu soared high and was a much sought-after leader. He was Malawi’s first leader to be elected chairman of the African Union. He also chaired the SADC.
In the education sector, he established a science and technology university in his home district Thyolo. Additionally, Bingu entered into the training of Malawian doctors with Cuba.
Sadly, the First Lady Mama Ethel Mutharika passed away on April 7, 2007. Her death led to the nation learning about various projects she had introduced through the Bineth Mutharika Foundation that were lifting the livelihoods of rural women. Later Mutharika remarried, becoming the second president to marry while in the State House.
On the downtrend very shortly after winning in a landslide election, during which his running mate was Joyce Banda, Malawians saw cracks in the relationship between the President and his Vice. Sadly in July 2011 during demonstrations against Bingu’s dictatorial tendencies, 21 Malawians lost their lives.
Bingu is the only president to die while in office. He passed away after a cardiac arrest on April 5, 2012. His death brought temporary chaos in Malawi as party zealots aspired to find ways to prevent Vice President Joyce Banda from ascending to the role of president as prescribed by the Constitution.
In the year 2012, the world saw that the Malawi Defense Force is a professional entity. It rose to the occasion, upon being informed by the presidential aide de camp (a defense force personnel who is the principal security detail for the head of state)informed his superiors of the cardiac arrest of President Bingu wa Mutharika, a large contingency was sent to the vice president’s official residence, informing her that they were there for her protection. Among others, the move was to prevent a constitutional crisis. Malawi would plunge into a constitutional crisis if the president is confirmed to have died, and then someone harms the VP; there would be a leadership vacuum.
After much ado, Joyce Banda sailed into history as the first woman president in Malawi and the SADC region, and the second woman president in Africa. She led Malawians to mourn and bury President Bingu wa Mutharika, the superior with whom she did not have a cordial relationship for the better part of three years.
Bingu started as the weakling that Muluzi pushed into Malawi’s political sphere, rose to great economic strength and might, raising the living standards of Malawians, through revolutionized agricultural policies, mainly through farm input subsidies.
A little criticism here and there, made the house of Bingu come tumbling down, as Malawians shunned the hero they dared overpraise as they had done with Kamuzu.