Barely eight months into his term in office, Malawian President Peter Mutharika and his government are facing furious calls for their resignation in what some fear could be a reprise of the riots against former Pres. Bingu wa Mutarika, the brother of the current head of state.
A coalition of 20 leading NGOs has announced plans for a mass demonstration against the government to take place this week.
In a joint statement, the groups listed their complaints: “A dwindling state of governance, lack of separation of powers among government branches, abuse and manipulation of public resources, high cost of living, insecurity, shortage of medical drugs and incessant public sector strikes.”
Happy Kayuni, an associate professor at the state-funded Chancellor College of the University of Malawi, where Mutharika is the chancellor, cited Mutharika’s inability to respond to the judiciary strike as key among his shortcomings.
Court officers walked off their jobs nearly two-months ago in a strike that paralyzed the judicial system and left prison and police cells overflowing with crime suspects. Some of the officers have just returned to work after negotiating a salary increase just under their initial demand of 45%.
And two weeks ago, the Chinese embassy told Malawi that Chinese investors may be forced to relocate to neighboring countries if the government did not take steps to improve their security.
“Our hope is that government and the Inspector General of Police will do their best to bring back investor confidence,” said Wang Jiaxin Hudson of the Chinese Embassy. According to Wang, some eight Chinese investors, including medical doctors, were targeted by robbers and had their valuables stolen just in the past year. A Chinese-owned shopping mall was robbed twice.
The NGOs also want Malawi’s first lady, Gertrude Mutharika, to refund about $22,000 they say her Beautify Malawi (BEAM) Trust received from the National AIDS Commission. The Trust encourages good hygiene but carries out no HIV- or AIDS-related activities.
Gertrude says calls for a refund are politically motivated but the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB and Malaria has suspended the grant of $700-million to the commission as a result of its controversial funding criteria.
In a recent address to the nation, Mutharika attempted to shift blame from his administration to the previous one lead by Joyce Banda. “If you take a look at what has happened with our economy, which has been riddled by the infamous Cashgate, you can surely be with me in the call for a better Malawi. We are facing all these economic hurdles because of a lack of love for one another.”
The Centre for Social Concern noted in October that the cost of living in Malawi remains one of the highest in Africa. Inflation for November 2014 was recorded at 24%, according to the National Statistical Office. w/pix of Pres. P. Mutharika