Peter Mutharika is certain he won reelection last June, in a poll which he insists was rigged and which triggered violent protests.
But instead of pursuing his case through the courts, he invited the new president and his wife over for a chat and some coffee.
Landlocked Malawi is Southern Africa's poorest nation, and was rocked by political protests over the June poll, which was a redo of a February poll that courts invalidated. But after months of protests and challenges, Mutharika folded and says he’ll never run for office again.
“I thought we needed peace in this country after 11 months of violence," Mutharika said. "So that's what happened, and I think my people are so glad, that they acted responsibly and accepted that we should go on, let them take the government and let Malawi go on in peace.”
President Lazarus Chakwera acknowledged, broadly, some of his shortcomings late last year, said he accepted criticism for his handling of the pandemic and other pressing issues.
"Someone asked if I have done enough," Chakwera said. "No, I will be the first one to tell you that I have not done enough, and this country has not done enough.”
One thing Chakwera’s government was quick to do shortly after taking office was to freeze Mutharika’s bank accounts amid a corruption investigation. The former president is accused of taking part in a $6 million scheme to illegally import cement.
When asked about it by VOA, Mutharika denied his involvement in the purchase.
Mutharika, who remains leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, called out his rival for what he sees as his biggest stumble — dealing with coronavirus.
He said the government has failed to provide enough tests and economic assistance for citizens affected by viral restrictions.
“They need to do more," Mutharika said. "We probably need some kind of lockdown at some point. We also need to have resources to assist those families in terms of buying food and nutrition.”
The former president did note the government is encouraging the use of face masks and urging people to social distance, steps he said were good for the fight against COVID-19.
The 80-year-old statesman added that he would not hesitate to take the vaccine when it arrives in Malawi, which has yet to happen.
And finally, Mutharika says he’s encouraged by political change in a major donor nation, the U.S.
“We’ve already seen President Biden reversing so many things, going back to COP-25, for example, and also getting the United States back into the World Health Organization," Mutharika said. "So, there are changes, and I assume that Africa, the previous government probably was not very active in Africa. I assume that perhaps the new government will be more active in Africa, as Democrats normally tend to do.”
He did, however, offer some praise for the Trump administration, noting that Malawi was one of four countries that Melania Trump graced during her only tour of Africa, in 2018.