Malawi’s President Bingu Wa Mutharika denies as pure speculation reports that his government is planning to arrest former President Bakili Muluzi to prevent him from seeking an unprecedented third term in office. This follows reports that the former president is assembling political advisors in a bid to challenge Mutharika in the country’s next elections. But Mutharika said the country’s constitution bars the former president, who had already served two consecutive terms in office, from seeking another term.
He adds that the government would not arrest the former president for the mere fact that the former president was going to run for another term. Meanwhile, a court would soon adjudicate on a case involving whether the former president is qualified to run for another term in office.
Noel Mbowela is a political science professor of Mzuzu University in Malawi. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that President Mutharika is saying one thing and doing another.
“That is a very big contradiction to his earlier stance. Obviously, because it has been the president’s trade mark right from the time that he was taking his inaugural speech way back in 2004, that he was going to deal with anyone who has been corrupt in the previous regime. And obviously, people expected that one of the people or the big politician who would be on the agenda of Bingu’s political arrests, if I may call it that would be the president (Mutharika) himself. And we have seen on several occasions whereby the Anti-Corruption Bureau has indeed tried to move forward and arrest the former head of state, but this has not happened. So this is why I’m saying it’s a big contradiction,” Mbowela noted.
He said he did not agree with speculations that the reported plan to arrest the former president was to foil Muluzi’s plan to seek another term in office.
“It’s tricky and quite interesting really because if that was the case then I think looking at the former president as a rival, President Bingu Wa Mutharika should have gone ahead and made sure that the former president really get arrested or he doesn’t stand in his way. So this is now where the contradiction is coming in to say the former president is supposed to answer for certain allegations pertaining to corruption. Then obviously he would be one of the biggest targets of the incumbent. So to see that things are not moving towards that direction is quite surprising really. You never know what is happening behind the scene anyway,” he said.
Mbowela described Mutharika’s reference to the court in the case against the former president as a political maneuver.
“I think he (Muthairka) was trying to distance himself from being in the forefront in trying to block the former president because there is a two-way interpretation to this saga. As the incumbent president, I think Muthairka wouldn’t want to be seen to be sabotaging the program of his predecessor. So he obviously left it in the hands of the court, so that whatever decision is made by the court, he is not part and parcel of it,” Mbowela pointed out.
Mutharika resigned from the United Democratic Front (UDF) party in 2005 amid allegations of high-level corruption, a charge denied by top UDF officials.
UDF officials, instead, accuse the President of being ungrateful to Muluzi who handpicked him for the presidential race in 2004. This triggered discontent among some UDF executive members, including Aleke Banda, Justin Malewezi, and Harry Thomson who resigned from the party in protest.
Mutharika formed the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), taking with him almost half of the UDF executive members into his cabinet along with some supporters.