Malawi's former President Bakili Muluzi is accusing President Bingu Wa Mutharika of mismanaging the economy and has challenged him to a public debate. The former president contends that Mutharika's poor management of the economy is having an adverse effect on mainstream Malawians. Former President Muluzi says Malawians are worse off today than they were when he was president. But President Mutharika's administration dismissed the accusation, describing it as a publicity stunt. Blessing Chisinga is a political science professor at the University of Malawi"s Chancellor College. He tells reporter Peter Clottey that many Malawians have expressed interest in seeing a public debate between President Mutharika and former President Muluzi.
"Generally, assessing the mood in the streets and in the offices, people have welcomed the offer by the former president. There is a belief that if indeed such a debate can be held, then there would be chance to move our politics from focusing on personalities, tribalism, and ethnicities to focus on real issues, I think people are very interested to get the politicians to focus on the economy, poverty and development. So people have generally welcomed the idea that these two people should debate these issues," Professor Chisinga pointed out.
He said it would be challenging to have both the former president and the current president to debate issues about Malawi's economy publicly on the same stage.
"I don't see this debate ever happening for one simple reason. I think Dr. Muluzi is much better in terms of communicating with the masses and the issues that he has been championing are populist in nature because he has basically been saying that the people in this country do not have money in their pockets. They are not able to complete houses, and I think this is true in the sense that the people that started building houses four years ago, they haven't completed them. Why? Because the current government has tightened loopholes for corruption and people are able to connect to that," he said.
Professor Chisinga said the former president is blaming the current administration for the high prices of fuel.
"He is talking about the reduction in fuel prices because almost all of our neighboring countries have reduced the prices of fuel. But it is only us who do not have our fuel prices down," Professor Chisinga said.
He said former President Muluzi does not have the moral high ground to castigate President Mutharika for abdicating on promises he made to Malawians when he was sworn in as the country's leader.
"Certainly not. I think he doesn't have the moral ground to do that because when he was the president the country's economy was actually teetering on the brink of collapse. And I think in all fairness, President Mutharika has done a very good job in terms of bringing back micro economic stability, reducing inflation, and generally creating favorable conditions for economic growth," he said.
Professor Chisinga said President Mutharika has so far chalked some success in straightening Malawi's economy.
"In the last three years, the country has consistently registered seven percent annual increase in GDP, so certainly, he (Mutharika) has done well and good for all Malawians. So the former president has no moral grounds to criticize Mutharika, but his (Muluzi's) advantage is that he is able to connect with the vast majority of the people who are illiterate and these are the people who actually vote," Professor Chisinga noted.