- I am alive, in excellent heath, the President declares
- Joyous party cadres cause intimidatory atmosphere at presser
“I am still alive. I will be around for quite some time. …I am in excellent health.”
Those are some of the loaded declarations President Peter Mutharika made yesterday as he spat fire on people who peddled exaggerated ill-health stories and rumours about him after he returned home from the United States of America (USA) last Sunday.
Most of the stories and rumours, especially on social media, claimed that Mutharika had fallen seriously ill and had to be operated on during a USA trip extension after he attended the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.
Some of the extreme reports even said the President had died and his ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government officials were hiding and postponing the announcement of the bad news to ordinary Malawians until they ensured that their political enemies did not profit from the development.
Arriving home to a large crowd at Kamuzu International Airport last Sunday, Mutharika seemed to add some credence to some of the illness rumours when the normally right-handed Malawi leader could only manage to wave to the people and to also greet dignitaries using only his left hand.
He also seemed to tire towards the end of his airport arrival ceremonies, which included inspecting a guard of honour and shaking hands with the dignitaries.
Laughing off the death reports, Mutharika said he seems to be doing better than the proverbial cat that is said to have nine lives, because it seems to bounce back to life each time it is killed.
“I used to be told that a cat has nine lives. But it seems that Peter Mutharika has more than nine lives,” he quipped, saying he had been reported dead more than nine times in recent weeks, but had apparently also resurrected from death as many times.
The President said people who peddled such death reports, including the media have been proved wrong. He pleaded that published news needs to be credible and not falsehood.
However, he admitted that while in the USA, he had been given outpatient treatment to correct a long-time rheumatic shoulder ailment and he had received medical advice to let the right hand rest for some time, hence his deciding to greet people at the airport using only his left hand.
“It’s getting better now. My shoulder is about 80 percent complete [healed],” he said as he raised his right hand once again, much to the thrill of the DPP cadres.
He further quipped that after two weeks, he would be fit enough to dare Malawian top boxer Isaac Chilemba into the ring for a 12-bout fight and he would give him a third round knock-out.
Mutharika said had he been sick while in the USA, he could have stayed on to seek the good treatment there. He added that he is in such a good health that his doctors say his major limbs are performing as well as a 30-year-old’s.
He accused some leaders of opposition of having wished that the alleged death or illness would remove him from the political scene as a President, so that they could face a softer opponent.
The President said the opposition leaders who had warmed up to the false reports that he had been incapacitated, or had died, better mind their own business by concentrating on mending cracks in their parties.
“In 2019 [during the next general election], you will have me as your opponent,” he declared, sending the party zealots into a celebration din. “Aimanso!” (he will stand again), they chorused, as others chanted “Akunjenjemera!” (they are shaking with fear).
But the party cadres generally created an intimidatory atmosphere at the press conference, as they heckled journalists when they asked some tough questions. The development flew in the face of promises and efforts by the Mutharika regime to limit presser attendees to only line ministers and other officials responsible for issues at hand.
Among a wide range of issues, Mutharika told journalists that only a small delegation had accompanied him to the UNGA in New York. He added that after the meeting, he sent most members of his delegation back home, as part of efforts to cut costs.
In follow-up questions, Mutharika said he does not yet know the full cost of the USA trip. But he stressed that during the extra 15 days after the UNGA, he was engaged in critical meetings with development partners who could help Malawi in sectors like energy, drought resilience and food security.
On the economy, he admitted that it had experienced a slight depreciation, although he noted that Malawi’s healthy 4.3-month import cover was one of the signs that things were improving.
The President owned up the people are facing water and electricity woes currently. But he assured the nation that once the rainy season kicks in and as new investors in electricity generation get to work, both problems could become experiences of the past.
Vice President Saulos Chilima was conspicuously missing at the press conference. n