"It's shameful that the UDF party wants to take us back to the dark days,"

Mr Gwanda Chakuamba (2003)

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Monday, May 08, 2006

Mr Bakili Muluzi’s empire collapsing
by Henry Chilobwe, 07 May 2006 - 07:07:32
The vast economic and political empire that former President Bakili Muluzi built within 10 years of his rule is fast disintegrating hardly two years after he reluctantly walked out of Sanjika Palace.
It appears as if the centre of both his economic and political bases can no longer hold and things are falling apart for a man who in his hey days could have people of all shades of colours and status mingling around him whenever he coughed to signal attention.
At the pinnacle of his power and grip over the country, Muluzi, who just before the 2004 general elections was fondly referred to by his party followers – especially the ever joyful dancing women – as Atcheya (Chairman of his United Democratic Front party) was a multi-millionaire who travelled the entire country splashing wards of the precious kwacha with total abandon. Hundreds of people flocked to his public appearances in the hope of pocketing a chunk of the money he always threw around.
Muluzi was a businessman even before he ascended the presidency in 1994, but his companies were largely struggling to remain afloat. However, when he became president he soon turned into a renowned sugar baron, founded an investment and trade bank that never really saw the light of day, owned vast landed properties and partnered with several established entrepreneurs in various fields.
In short, during the 10 years of his rule his businesses interests and undertakings rapidly burgeoned and flourished such that other business magnates in the country were ready to partner with him.
Today the bliss his business enjoyed seems to be vanishing by the day. Time hardly passes without an organisation or individual businessperson surfacing to claim that the former president owes one huge amounts of money for transactions conducted when he ruled the country.
With more than a billion Kwacha debt burden on his neck, Muluzi soon found himself in a shadow of his own exploits. The rock-solid business empire that once flourished is fast turning into mere memoirs of the tycoon Muluzi had become in his heydays.
Towards the twilight of his reign Muluzi had embarked on an ambitious project to set up the Trade and Investment Bank, which had it succeeded might have assured him of a lucrative post-politics retirement life. The project died in its budding stages and it was booted out of Delamere House in Blantyre for failing to pay K8 million rentals.
Sheriffs descended on the bank on February 7 last year and seized computers and furniture, which were only worth thousands of kwacha. They auctioned these weeks later.
Soon after Muluzi relinquished power the trend continued with debtors swooping on him and resorting to court action to recover their money. On the heels of managers for Delamere House, six months later, was the Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA), which demanded MK111 million from Atcheya as duty for vehicles he imported between 1999 and 2004 but were released without any duty being paid on them.
Liquidated Finance Bank also lunged for his neck over a MK50 million loan that Atupele Properties Limited (a family business concern) obtained in 2004. With interests this debt came to MK93 million at the time the bank wanted to be paid. The High Court in Blantyre last year ruled that MK50 million be paid by Muluzi’s property agents and managers, Knight Frank, and MK43 million by Atupele Properties.

-Story by The Nation (MALAWI)

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