Former president Bingu wa Mutharika must be rolling around in his Mpumulo wa Bata at Ndata in Thyolo following his brother Peter Mutharika’s statement that he wants to reverse his (elder brother’s) decision of relocating head offices of all MDAs to Lilongwe.
Peter Mutharika (APM), declared at the Mulhako wa Alhomwe cultural festival at Chonde in Mulanje at the weekend that moving MDAs’ head offices to Lilongwe is an economic sanction against the Southern Region. He has, therefore, decided to run for the presidency again in 2025 with the sole purpose of reversing the relocations.
APM’s declaration of his intention to run again in 2025, as many have already said, is a disregard for democratic processes. Presidential candidates are elected at a convention. APM should, therefore, have waited for such a time considering there are other candidates vying for the same position.
But this is not the focus of this entry. Here my main interest is why APM wants to run for office again which, according to him, is to reverse Bingu’s decision on relocation.
Now this is laughable, to say the least. Against all the economic challenges the country is sailing through, all that an aspiring candidate can say for running for office is to bring head offices of MDAs to Blantyre. My foot! Will that turn around the economy? Does it mean APM can’t see or feel what everybody else is seeing and feeling? This is really comical.
More importantly the statement is also counter-productive to APM’s bid to return to power, if at all he is really serious about it. It shows how intellectually and politically famished and depraved the former president has fast become after leaving office in 2020.
For starters, on June 17 2004, barely a month after moving to Plot Number One after winning the 2004 General Elections, Bingu wa Mutharika decreed the relocation of all Cabinet ministers to the capital, Lilongwe. The aim was to increase government effectiveness. All Cabinet ministers already had offices in Lilongwe, but some preferred to operate from the commercial capital, Blantyre as it was closer to their constituencies. Bingu’s predecessor, Bakili Muluzi also preferred Blantyre.
Effectively the policy shift by Bingu meant that head offices of all ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) also had to move to Lilongwe. Ken Lipenda, the then Minister of Information was quoted in the local media as saying the move would also help Cabinet ministers provide leadership and guidance to their respective ministries which were all based in Lilongwe. Said Lipenga: “It will also be more cost-effective running one office, instead of two.”
Indeed, it makes a lot of economic sense to have all head offices in the same locale in the capital, more especially that Parliament and all donors are based in Lilongwe.
That is how the massive process of relocating most MDAs which had hitherto been headquartered in Blantyre to the administrative capital, Lilongwe started. However, a few MDAs still remained in Blantyre. They included the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC), Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation, Electricity Supply Corporation of Malawi, Malawi Prison Service, Malawi Revenue Authority, Malawi Bureau of Standards, the Malawi Communications Regulatory Authority (Macra), Malawi Postal Corporation, to mention but a few.
President Lazarus Chakwera has upheld the initiative of moving MDAs head offices to Lilongwe. Under his tenure this has seen Macra and MEC move to the capital.
Now, if APM’s decision to run for office motivated by the need to reverse Bingu’s relocation is laughable, it is also ridiculous. He seems to be toxically obsessed with the Southern Region. Admitted, this is the region where his Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has most support. But having been the ruling party for a combined total of 14 years (2005—2012 and 2014—2020), the party also has some support across the country, especially in the Northern Region. But the statement that he will reverse the relocation decisions clearly shows he does not put much premium on his support base in the other two regions. Now that is a very scary, careless and self-injuring statement coming from someone who wants to vie for the high office.
The statement has tribal and ethnic connotations. APM’s thinking is reminiscent of what another senior DPP member George Chaponda once said in his advice to Bingu wa Mutharika that DPP can do without the Northern Region. But DPP zealots should know this hard fact. In order to win the presidency, especially now, with the 50 + One system in place, presidential candidates need votes from all the regions.
Anyway, APM has laid out his manifesto and DPP members from the other regions please take note.