The sending of ex-President Bakili Muluzi to represent Malawi in Zambia has ignited a social media debate with some observers claiming President Mutharika is sidelining his Veep Saulos Chilima. This could not be further from the truth. Sata has always been close to Bakili Muluzi to the point where this relationship so incensed Bingu WA Mutharika who deported Michael Sata from Malawi. It is also no secret that Michael Sata funded the political ambitions of Young Atupele Muluzi. 

The following article published by in January of 2012 will shine light to the feud. 


Blantyre, Malawi: Despite tentative moves towards reconciliation over the past few months, relations between Zambia’s President Michael Sata and Malawi’s President Bingu WA Mutharika remain tense. 

At the end of 2011, Sata sent a message to Mutharika, in an attempt to reconcile the feud between the two leaders that began in 2007 when Sata, who was then Zambia’s opposition leader, was deported from Malawi. At a press conference in Lusaka with Bakili Muluzi, a former Malawi president and personal friend of Sata, the Zambian president told reporters that he wanted to mend relations with Mutharika, saying “I have given him [Muluzi] a message to convey to Professor WA Mutharika…as far as I am concerned, let bygones be bygones.” 

Despite these moves towards rebuilding this relationship, however, exchanges between the two leaders and their spokespeople have remained somewhat fraught. 

The incident

Sata and Mutharika have been exchanging diplomatic blows in a feud that began in March 2007 when Mutharika’s government deported Sata from Malawi during his visit to Malawian opposition leader Bakili Muluzi. Sata was forcibly bundled into a Land Rover and deposited at the Malawi- Zambia border. No reason for the deportation was given at the time and Sata filed a lawsuit against the Malawi government for illegal deportation in a case which is ongoing. 

Sata’s visit to Muluzi coincided with a tense political moment in Malawi. Muluzi had just vowed to unseat Mutharika in the upcoming 2009 presidential elections, and rumors of a coup involving Sata were circulating. 

Escalating tensions

There had been hopes that the personal spat between the two leaders would be resolved following Sata’s election as Zambia’s president in September 2011. 

In October, Sata turned down an invitation to attend the 15th Summit of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) in Malawi’s capital Lilongwe, sending his deputy Guy Scott in his place. The Malawi government responded by affirming Sata’s right as state president “to visit Malawi any time”, and asserting that “the Comesa family of Nations warmly welcomes his [Sata’s] election victory”. 

However, recent statements by Mutharika’s spokesperson Hetherwick Ntaba, linking Sata to the alleged coup plot, threaten to further prolong the dispute. 

Earlier this month, Ntaba appeared on the Malawi state broadcaster MBC Television to suggest that Sata was linked to the alleged coup plot in 2007, initiating a war of words between representatives of the two governments. 

“[Muluzi] worked to facilitate the impeachment of the elected Mutharika, and he enlisted the help of local and foreign colleagues,” Ntaba said. “Sata’s visit could have been part of the conspiracy”. 

In the same address, Ntaba questioned the significance of Sata’s ‘message of forgiveness’, arguing that it was undermined by his continuing legal action against the state. Ntaba also debated Sata’s sincerity in opting to communicate by word of mouth rather than official communication. 

Sata’s supporters and representatives have been equally indignant in their response. Muluzi, for example, complained that the Mutharika administration had not invited him to deliver Sata’s reconciliatory message since his return from Zambia. And Sata’s information minister Given Lubinda was quoted in Malawi’s daily The Nation as saying President Sata will not write to Mutharika “when it was him who humiliated Sata by bundling him in a car to the border“. 

Mixed messages

Despite these prickly exchanges, reports from the recent African National Congress centenary dinner suggest that there may be hope for an eventual rapprochement between the leaders of Zambia and Malawi. 

The Post newspaper of Zambia reported that the leaders hugged, laughed and exchanged words in Nyanja – a language spoken in both Zambia and Malawi – in what was their first meeting since the 2007 deportation. Malawi government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati said that the meeting suggests the feud between the leaders has been resolved although Vincent Kondowe from Catholic University told Think Africa Press that the ANC dinner could not necesarily be taken as a sign of cordiality because it was not official diplomacy. 

Nevertheless, despite continued the tense exchanges between Sata and Mutharika’s representatives, we can be hopeful that for the sakes of their respective electorates, the two presidents are realizing the importance of putting their personal differences aside, forgetting if not forgiving the mistakes of the past and moving forwards in mutually beneficial and cooperati

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