Rumours of Bingu wa Mutharika’s death have been greatly exaggerated, apparently. He’s just on holiday in Hong Kong and Portugal. For a month. In the middle of a political crisis. Without telling anyone. Not the Malawian president’s best move. By SIMON ALLISON.
It’s been a torrid year for Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika. He had a diplomatic, WikiLeaks-induced spat with Britain which caused crucial aid money to dry up, there’s hardly any fuel in his country’s petrol pumps and he’s had to crush, violently, an incipient Arab Spring-style rebellion against his attempts to superimpose autocracy on Malawi’s still fragile democracy.
In need of a bit of relaxation, Mutharika decided to take a holiday. After attending the Commonwealth Summit in Australia which finished at the end of October, Mutharika went on vacation, spending some time shopping (or receiving medical treatment, reports vary) in Hong Kong before retiring to his mansion in Portugal. The mansion was kindly built by the Portuguese industrial giant, Mota Engil, a corporation that just happens to have interests in Malawi valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Although presumably Mutharika made arrangements for the government to cope in his absence, he forgot to inform the Malawian people, who have been speculating on their president’s whereabouts for the past two weeks. The prevailing theory, underscored perhaps by optimism, was Mutharika had died. This wouldn’t be the first dead African president to still hold office – Nigeria’s Umaru Yar Adua seemed to manage it admirably last year.
But a spokesman for the president debunked these claims, and Mutharika was reportedly furious with the rumours. The spokesman defended Mutharika’s time off. “Let’s be fair here. Should a president fail to go on holiday because there is fuel shortage in the country?” In short: Yes. DM
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