Even after the Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) released a statement days before the late Mutharikaâ€™s burial clarifying that he died on April 5, the confusion followed him to his grave at Mpumulo wa Bata at Ndata Farm in Thyoloâ€”where an inscription chalks his death to April 6.
Mutharikaâ€”may his soul rest in eternal peaceâ€”either died three times and in three daysâ€”5th, 6th and 7th of April 2012 or no one knows the exact day he passed on.
But both these scenarios are death oddities given that he was taken to hospitals in Lilongwe and Johannesburg in South Africa where the time and date of death should have been determined. What does his death certificate say?
From the three dates, everyone has chosen one to pin Mutharikaâ€™s death on, a situation that pretty much sums up who Mutharika wasâ€”a secretive man incapable of self-definition, always running from his own shadows and perpetually crouching defensively against enemiesâ€”real and imagined.
Even in death, the manâ€™s message was as muddled as when he was alive, an undisciplined communicator and manager who could say and do pretty much anything on his mind anytime anywhere.
He proudly called this lack of a core “unpredictable.” His apologists say their hero was a misunderstood statesman. What nonsense. Mutharika was a self-misguided and self-serving character who made decisions in his second term of office that the majority deemed to have been very bad for the country and his legacy given his above average achievements in his first term.
It was Mutharika, not the other way round, who misunderstood his people by taking for granted and over-interpreting the mandate they gave him in 2009 to mean a blank cheque on which he could rewrite economic rules without a national thought process and reshape our legal architecture to resemble a 16th century antiquated civilization to serve a 21th century citizenry.
In fact, the late leaderâ€™s gravest error was that he equated criticism to lack of understanding, not of him, but of his policies; hence, the ridiculous public lecture and subsequent seminars for chiefs and religious bodies on the foreign exchange policy during which he beguiled them with why he thought devaluing the local currency, kwacha, was bad economics.
Even the people he targeted for his messages were not those who disagreed with his policies in the technical sense, but a few puppets that either lacked the courage or the brains to tell him he was dead wrong.
Thus, instead of also interfacing with his critics to understand their reasons for faulting his policiesâ€”and possibly deviate from his path to nowhereâ€”he either avoided them or called them names simply for refusing to buy into his antediluvian economic policy thoughts.
In the end, it was poor stakeholder analysis, identification and management that were one of the greatest failures of Mutharikaâ€™s communication strategyâ€”and his undoingâ€”as he always communicated the wrong message to wrong audiences.
Even the veil of secrecy surrounding him spoke of a confidence-malnourished man. For example, a few weeks before his death, Mutharika left for Nigeria in the wee hours, leaving a chain of lies in his wake.
His blubbering Information Minister Patricia Kaliati claimed the President was at State House while his mouthpiece Hetherwick Ntaba feigned ignorance.
When a picture surfaced on the Nigerian State House website showing Mutharika being welcomed by that countryâ€™s President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja, the visit became the worst kept secret. Despite this, Mutharika maintained the deception through a rather bizarre and embarrassing strategy. On his return from Nigeria, in an effort to keep his not-so-secret still trip secret, he passed through the cargo section of Kamuzu International Airport (KIA), foregoing the VVIP that is traditionally reserved for leaders. The President was a fugitive of his own actions in his own country.
From the airport, he used unconventional routes in zigzag fashions that are only real in Hollywood movies to reach State House and save the storyline that he had been around all alongâ€”only for the leader himself, in the middle of one of his undisciplined ratings in Zomba, to let it slip that he did go to Nigeria. Kaliati and Ntaba were left with rotten eggs all over their faces.
But that was the culture that Mutharika had brain-washed the likes of Kaliati with so much that after his death, it came naturally to them to keep his demise a secret, sneak out the late Presidentâ€™s remains to South Africa and continued to lie to the nation for three days that the President was alive and receiving further treatment in the land of gold.
That culture of lies and secrets has eroded peopleâ€™s confidence in government. To restore it, President Joyce Banda must replace this destructive culture with a more transparent and accountable management of State affairs.
Rest in peace my President Mutharika.