Malawi’s President Bingu Wa Mutharika has reportedly come under intense criticism after calling the opposition “wild animals” who want to overthrow his government. Mutharika’s comments led to a boycott by opposition parliamentarians during the president’s State of the Nation address to open parliament after activities were suspended during peace negotiations between the government and the opposition. The opposition has also withdrawn from the reconciliation talks, aimed at resolving an escalating political quarrel. Some analysts blame President Mutharika for the heightened tensions after several opposition supporters were arrested for plotting to assassinate the president and overthrow his administration. From the capital Lilongwe, parliament opposition member Atopele Muluzi tells reporter Peter Clottey that President Mutharika is to blame for the political impasse.
“The tension that is existing in parliament is also the tension which is existing in the country. This has emanated from a number of issues – the decision of the president to form a new party after being elected on the platform of the United Democratic Front (UDF). There have been a number of other issues: the treason arrests, which have been leveled against members of the opposition here in Malawi, the disregard for the rule of law by the executive, for example. They have been recently assenting to bills which have not been passed by parliament,” Muluzi pointed out.
The opposition MP, who is the son of President Mutharika’s rival and predecessor, Bakili Muluzi, blames the current leader for circumventing conventional procedures for carrying out affairs in the country.
“Really, there is a breakdown of the general principles of democracy, which is something that the people of Malawi have fought for. And it is quite sad that as we are approaching the 2009 election there seems to be lot of tension in this country,” he noted.
Atopele Muluzi said the opposition would have preferred for President Mutharika to engage the opposition through dialogue so it easier for him to implement his plans for Malawians.
“This is a minority administration. Now, in any minority administration, there has to be a way a contact and dialogue between the opposition and the executive. Unfortunately, President Mutharika has decided that he wants to take a confrontational path, castigating opposition members, threatening members of the opposition with arrests. Now, as president of this country President Mutharika should have been the first person to call for unity. President Mutharika should have demonstrated that we as Malawians are one and that we can work together as one people. Unfortunately, that exact thing is failing. We seem to be going on a confrontational path, and it does not seem as though these problems that are in the country are going to be resolved anytime soon,” Muluzi said.
He said the opposition takes exception at the president’s reference to the opposition as wild animals that aim to overthrow his administration.
“He has threatened to arrest the entire opposition on allegations of trying to overthrow his government on fake treason charges. He has reinstated a clerk of parliament who is being investigated for misappropriation of funds. There is a breakdown of procedures in parliament, where bills have been assented to without passage by members of parliament. There is no regard for the procedures in the House, and also to an extent we’ve had a situation where the business in the House is been compromised by an executive that is unwilling to discuss with the other side, the opposition in particular,” he noted.