Tributes started pouring in for former Cabinet minister and corporate executive Matthews Chikaonda who died on Tuesday in California, United States.
Chikaonda, who also served as Governor of the Reserve Bank of Malawi (RBM), died after a short illness, according to his family.
In his tribute, former president Bakili Muluzi, who appointed Chikaonda as RBM governor in 1995 and minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development in 2000, said he was saddened that the country has lost a person of his stature.
He described Chikaonda as an intellectual who served his country well both as RBM governor and Cabinet minister. He added that the fallen technocrat was “an honest man who could correct me whenever I was going wrong”.
Said Muluzi: “He served me very well when I invited him from Canada where he also served the country well and he played an important role in the transformation process.
“He was always straightforward on advice. He would easily open up and say when things were not alright. One thing he will be remembered for is his 10-point plan. Some points did not work out, but those were his thoughts, his guidelines. He was brilliant. I will miss him.”
Justin Malewezi, who was vice-president to Muluzi, on Tuesday also described Chikaonda’s death as shocking and a loss to the nation.
He said he knew about Chikaonda’s ability to deliver when he worked with him before the United Democratic Front (UDF) era.
Said Malewezi: “He was a very passionate man in economics. As you know, his studies were on bringing profitability in companies that were failing when he graduated from Canada. So, he brought that passion into the government and private sector and we as a nation benefitted from that.”
PCL group CEO George Partridge, who succeeded Chikaonda, described him as jovial. He said his death was a big loss both to the nation and PCL.
Said Partridge: “He served [PCL] for 14 years and he was outstanding. Personally, I also knew him when he was appointed deputy Reserve Bank governor and he has been my mentor. We have always been in touch even when he was minister. He was always jovial and had a great personality.”
Chikaonda’s sister Hyacinta said as of on Tuesday the family was yet to prepare an official funeral programme.
But she indicated that Chikaonda’s remains are expected in the country next week.
Born on August 8 1954, Chikaonda held a doctor of philosophy (PhD) in finance from the University of Massachusetts, US obtained between1984 and1989. He also held a master of business administration (MBA) from the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania obtained between 1981 and 1983.
He also held bachelor of arts (BA) degree with honours from the Council for National Academic Awards at Huddersfield University in the United Kingdom (UK) obtained between 1976 and 1980 and a diploma in business studies fom The Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi.
He served as professor of finance at Memorial University of Newfoundland in Canada between 1988 and 1994 before his appointment as RBM deputy governor between 1994 and 1995.
In April 2002, Chikaonda—who is survived by a wife and three children—was appointed PCL group chief executive officer, a position he held until his retirement in 2016.
During his tenure as minister under Muluzi, he unveiled a 10-point plan which emphasised on running government as a business to achieve economic growth, job creation, commodity price stability, sustainable balance of payments position and overall macroeconomic stability.
Some of the policies under his leadership, including full-cost recovery arrangements for passports, driving licences and cost-sharing in public universities stirred controversy.