In her brilliant eulogy, the daughter of the late president Bingu wa Mutharika appealed to the people of Malawi not to forget her father. She can rest assured, they wonâ€™t forget him since his impact on the economic and political history of Malawi is by no means negligible.
Unfortunately, for those of us to whom Bingu was a philosopher, friend and guide and to those to whom he was a paterfamilias Shakespeare, speaking through the mouth of Mark Anthony, reminds us that â€œThe evil that men do lives after them, the good is often interred with their bones.â€
The good that he did can indeed be consigned to the realm of forgetfulness and ingratitude if those who admired him do nothing while his detractors take the centre stage slighting his achievements.
The late Mutharika introduced the Honour and Decorations Programme to honour men and women he acknowledged as achievers. He was president of Malawi for about eight years. Did heÂ do enough to be categorised as an achiever? Well, suppose you sit for an examination containing eight questions. Out of these, you answer correctly five of them, and the rest incorrectly. Have you passed the examination or test? By normal practice, you have passed, some would say you have passed with credit.
At his first inauguration in 2004, Bingu challenged the nation to judge him by the work of his hands. During his first term, he built the Kamphata to Nkhoma Road, the Mponela to Ntchisi Road, while work on the Chitipa to Karonga Road got moving faster than ever before.
He built the Kamuzu Banda Mausoleum and statue and won gratitude of our first presidentsâ€™ votaries, he launched the Nsanje-Inland Port which, though not yet finished, may yet see the day of completion and cheapen the cost of exports and imports.
To most of the ordinary people, his Farm Input Subsidy Programme (Fisp) is something for which we must praise him. Maybe I have forgotten one or more works of his hands, but the people of Malawi gave Mutharika highest marks during the 2009 General Elections. His first five years in office were a great success. He delivered what he had promised.
The second term was not so happy for Mutharika and the nation. He had absolute majority in Parliament and this seems to have given him, in the words of the Catholic Bishops Pastoral Letter, over-confidence. We saw Parliament enacting statutes changing the colour of the national flag, imposing on the country laws which threatened to encroach upon peopleâ€™s freedoms, taking eight months to solve a Chancellor College dispute which could well have been sorted out in half the time.
Last but not least, we saw Mutharika chasing out of the country tobacco and cotton buyers as well as (the horrors!), the British High Commissioner.
The expulsion of the British envoy was one of his greatest mistakes and it is the one which resulted in aggravating the economic woes in the form of forex shortage which in turn aggravated petroleum shortages. Indeed, diplomatic rupture with Britain may have contributed to the withholding of aid from other donors.
I was one of those who pleaded with the late Mutharika not to expel the British High Commissioner and was much saddened when he ignored this advice. At the back of my mind, I have felt that there were mitigating factors in the error Mutharika made. Who leaked the confidential information? What was his intention? Was he or she a Malawian and if so, why was that fellow not taken to court? I remember that during my stay in the civil service, we had to sign certain documents concerning State secrets.
In the United States, following the Wiki leaks affair, an effort was made to get the man behind the offence extradited to the United States. Moreover, Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, said nothing on the contents of the secret or confidential documents. This prevented other developments on the matter. In the US, they adopted the attitude â€˜the les said the better.â€™
Mutharika was a great scholar and writer. He was a visionary, not a routine type of leader. He looked at a situation, he thought about it and tried to do it differently.
Mutharika had in him the qualities of a great achiever, the type of person who originates ideas. His various writings will one day be studied in universities as part of a subject â€˜History of African Economic Philosophyâ€™.
In 10 yearsâ€™ time, most of us will hold different views about Mutharika. Those who have berated him and underrated his achievements might give him greater credit then.