President Bingu wa Mutharika 1934-2012: A fighter worth mentioning
On Monday, April 16, 2012 I was among the ordinary people that went to National Assembly and viewed the remains of Malawi's third President Bingu wa Mutharika as he lay in state. I was touched by the many ordinary people who turned up.
I overheard some notorious young people who said they came to confirm that he is dead, but there were many, ordinary rural Malawians who said they had come to believe that the man they saw as their saviour and who provided them with subsidy fertiliser is gone.
My car keys went missing, so I had plenty of time at Parliament building to reflect on this gentleman who came from nowhere to dominate our lives for close to 8 years.
I first met Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika at Area 15 residence of Dr. Charles Namondwe, then Commissioner for Culture. The Namondwe Children are very close freinds, having gone to school with the late Washington, and later their mother Lonely Mlumbe was among the initial trustees of our youth organisation. She personally donated furniture to Area 18 Youth Centre when donors were scarce.
Over the years, I have become very close to Carol, one of the few ladies I proudly call close freinds. I went escorting Carol after school when his "Uncle" Bingu the politician was waiting for something at their sitting room.
I was left alone with this giant, who grilled me with many questions and I made a mistake of revealing my youth activism. He had questions, advice and shared his vision for young people.
In 2002 when we launched the Youth Employment Network Malawi, only three names came quickly as advisors, late Aleke Banda for his work as founder of the Malawi Young Pioneer, Bingu and Alex Mseka, Secretary for Youth for his long work in advocating for vocation skills for young people.
Bingu invited us to his office at Reserve Bank and he had edited our document and ideas and wanted to share them. We never met long as he had many things to do, but we looked at his ideas.
Later in 2005, as Personal Assistant to Dr. Martin Kansichi, I pioneered a newsletter for the Ministry of Trade and called it "Trade News". It was a job I did alone but my boss was so pleased that he decided to share it with his boss, "Bingu", one copy returned a week later and it was heavily edited in a Presidential green mark, from the heading to the content. He suggested we call it "Malawi Trader" to reflect that it was Malawian.
Shortly my boss was fired, I went back into my profession before having a stint for months as Master of Ceremonies at the Presidential events.
Later, we would meet the President as a member of the media. I knew he read a lot, he liked fishing and he liked writing. I also know he liked drawing.
When his first wife Ethel died, I was in the United States, I wrote my experiences with the former First Lady, he sent a note of thank you.
In his last years, the President had changed a lot. He became angry, irritated and most of times he was isolated, opting to go down and fish.
His Ministers and Intelligence Chiefs did not help him. They lied a lot to him for their own political survival. All main Journalists from Raphael Tenthani to myself were accused of working for Joyce Banda.
One Minister Yunus Mussa, personally told Mutharika, I had been paid a bribe of 8,000 pounds to produce a documentary for a UK television station on Child Labour. He did all he could including writing to my employers, but nobody believed him.
Bingu's determination and achievements were among discussions at the United Nations around 2008 as Malawi was on track to achieve most of the Millennium Development Goals.
That was until, the liars got hold of him and convinced him everybody hated him, the opposition, the media, Churches and even the donors. They accused everyone of wanting power.
He was a man under siege. I spoke to several of his close aides and relations that there were too many lies around the President and you are painting him black, very few listened and many today tell me "We should have listened to you."
I reflected all this at Parliament car park, but I know there many honest Malawians who told him the truth.
But being an educated and well travelled man, I was amazed by his anger at Newspapers. He accessed every media as Comesa Secretary General or at the United Nations or World Bank, I never understood why he thought the media was part of conspiracy.
He will be laid to rest on April 23, a man who lived 78 and lived to reach the Highest corridors of power. Yes he changed lives of Malawians when he personally fought for the Fertiliser Subsidy, but he failed to share the wealth to benefit all Malawians.
There were many liars and greedy gluttons who seized his initiatives and became stinking rich at the expense of all Malawians. There are tribalists who used a fear card and wanted them and their cartels to run Malawi.
We saw the same during Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda's reign where one family dominated every sector. We saw it during Bingu's time.
In November 2001, when he was dissolving his United Party, I asked him where he had been bought. Ken Zikhale Ng'oma next to him he told me, 'I cannot be bought, I have flown all the flags one would want and there is nothing anybody can offer me now."
Two weeks later he was at the Reserve Bank as Deputy Governor.
I will remember Bingu for his determination to achieve his goals, I will not fault him over his last years failures. They no longer matter to some of us, he is gone and gone forever.
I would ask my compatriots to wake up and move forward. Bingu might have become a fighter who fought his own people, but he also leaves a legacy of development worth insertion in our History.
Death has taught us we are all equal, even at Presidential level.
His death should wake up our politicians to work for the people
Even a 12 year old boy from Kauma can go and see Bingu in his coffin a very stunning image God has left with us.
Go well Bingu, you fought battles, you achieved what many could not in generations and until We meet again, we will always call you our Third President
Rest in Peace Bingu wa Mutharika.