It is tempting to generalize that all known politicians in Malawi, by which it is meant “…those that have served in at least a government or have ever been a Member of Parliament”, have literally nothing new to offer to the Malawi nation.
That being true, as it most likely is, political party torchbearers for the 2014 Presidential and Parliamentary Elections (PPE) are best assessed through a studied analysis of their contribution either as MPs, cabinet ministers, or both. Expectedly therefore, it is only politically fair and traditionally proper that Peter Mutharika be assessed in light of his contribution in the previous government.
Peter Mutharika, unlike Joyce Banda and Atupele Muluzi, had all he needed to show his leadership and management acumen as well as his negotiation skills in the late Bingu wa Mutharika government. His elder brother was president and him had the president-like influence in the cabinet and public institutions.
Interestingly, his appointment to the Ministry of Justice and Constitution Affairs had Malawians clapping hands for the late Mutharika. The hand-clapping was to be expected because there was no doubting of his abilities and competences given his wide academic credentials and vast experience in the law field.
But hey, his appointment was to be regretted later. Perhaps informed by his overseas experience and its rich liberal ideologies, Peter Mutharika started assenting to unpopular laws, and soon the ministry became a total mess. Realizing the mess as would be learnt from the numerous public popular outcries, the late Mutharika excused the younger Mutharika from executing any duties as a minister.
It is the young Mutharika’s firing in the ministry under question that is of interest to this author. If Peter Mutharika had any better contribution, one would not have expected him to face the chop from the ministry. If indeed he were a politician worth the name, he would make more positive developmentally-friendly incentives if not to serve the nation, at least to serve his brother. But he never did. It was mess after mess for him in the ministry. And got what he rightly deserved—the chop.
Blood should indeed be thicker than water. His late brother was again to entrust him with another position, this time in a different ministry. Within ignorable time, the young Mutharika was tasked with running the Ministry of Education. As fate would have it, there he again did not have a smooth ride.
It never rained but poured for Peter Mutharika in his ministerial positions. Just after some time there emerged the so-called Academic Freedom saga in the education ministry. The saga has it, and it indeed is, that Inspector General (IG) of Police, Peter Mukhito, questioned the youthful Chancellor College’s Political and Administrative Studies (PAS) lecturer, Blessings Chinsinga. The then CASSU president Jessie Kabwila demanded a written apology from the IG and the late president defended him. And that was all what was needed to keep The Polytechnic and Chancellor College closed indefinitely for eight months for the latter and fewer for the former.
The young Mutharika was the minister then. It is elsewhere believed among seasoned political commentators, investigative journalists, and the then high-ranking individuals that literally did nothing to arrest the academic freedom saga.
Of course some defended him arguing that he was geared towards ending the saga but his late brother was a hindrance citing Peter Mutharika’s unannounced trips abroad as concrete evidence for his disagreement with the brother on the saga. This alibi is hardly compelling let alone convincing.
When all is said, there are two things though to celebrate for Peter Mutharika—his education and overseas links. The young Mutharika has the wide education and extensive overseas relationships worth writing home about. It is these two that give him the strength that sees the Orange and Yellow camps talking and plotting.
If really Malawians need an educated president with all the international accolades and links, then he is the man. However, it is highly unlikely that such is all what Malawians want in a president. His education credentials and links nonetheless make him still a darling among some Malawians. Sadly, these two reasons do not represent a potent force in the largely uneducated Malawi population, politically speaking.
It is upon considering the foregoing that one concludes, as does this author, that Peter Mutharika does not cause deadly political heartaches in the political circles if his wide education in the law field and international networks are disregarded.