"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, April 07, 2008

Bingu invites challengers


photograph by

Bingu wa Mutharika on Friday said his Democratic Progressive Party
(DPP) candidacy in next year’s presidential elections is not automatic.
He said the position will be open for contention when the party goes
for its convention anytime soon.

Addressing journalists during what he termed Presidential Chat with
the Press, Mutharika said the DPP was not under pressure to hold a
convention and it will hold one whenever the party is ready.

"It is not only the position of running mate that we will be
considering even myself I just expressed interest but everyone is free
to contest with me. If you will win and become the candidate I will
support you and if I win you should support me as well," said
Mutharika, answering a question on who would be his running-mate at the

Mutharika also said as State President he is ready to serve only his
maximum two terms and thereafter he would retire to pave way for
another leader to continue with the development of the country from
where he would stop in 2014.

"Next year I intend to stand again but after that you will not hear
of me amending the constitution to continue ruling, no. After my second
term I will retire and keep quiet," he said.

Asked what would be his next destination after retirement Mutharika,
who was in a different mood from Monday when he lambasted journalists
for asking him questions which he said were outside his successful
Beijing trip, said: "I will buy a locking chair, sit for six months and
then I will tell you my plans."

He likened the presidency to a relay race whereby he said the baton
stick has to be handed over after every 10 years if a country is to
move on with development.

"Malawi is not a personal farm or business. I am here on trust.
Every leader should have it in mind that this is not my property. As an
incumbent you have to develop the country up to where your friend will
pick it from. What is important is that every development should not
slide backwards," he said.

On the relationship between his government and opposition, Mutharika
said he has always been open for dialogue but the problem was that the
two sides have always failed to agree on the agenda of the dialogue.

He said if an agenda for the dialogue is established he is ready to have talks with the opposition.

Mutharika, however, said it was a lie that he sent Minister of
Industry, Trade and Private Sector Henry Mussa to meet Muluzi to
discuss a possibility of the two working together in the 2009 general

"If Mussa went to see Muluzi that I can not say because what happens after 6.00 pm nobody knows," he said.

Mutharika also bashed Muluzi for his insistence that the country’s economy has gone down unlike when he was in power.

The President, who took over from Muluzi in 2004 poured scorn on his predecessor’s economic credentials.

"I think the two of us come from different economic schools," said
Mutharika, who holds a doctorate qualification in economics and has
worked in various positions in the economic field both locally and

He said even some villagers would know and understand the economics
of prices better than ‘some heads of state’ saying there are certain
things such as fuel prices and international economic developments that
contribute to price increases and Malawi, as a country, has no control
over such factors.

Mutharika said unfortunately with liberalisation it is impossible to
have control over prices but added that as government it is watching
and would act if there is too much profiteering.

He also said government was working on plans on how minibus prices,
which is also currently a thorny issue, are reduced to a level where
Malawians would not be burdened.

On this year’s farm input programme Mutharika, who is also the
Minister of Agriculture admitted that the programme had several
implementation problems, including corruption and mistakes which he
said some emanated from his ministry.

He, however, maintained that the programme would go on using the coupons system.

"We indeed noticed that there was a lot of corruption with the
coupons but is there is no better alternative. This year I can assure
you there would be no theft of coupons," said Mutharika.

He added: "Subsidy goes beyond subsistence farming but it is not
meant for commercial farmers. Those talking about universal subsidy are
not living on this earth. No government anywhere can afford that. It
will still be targeted but this year we will do it better."

He said although the MCP and the UDF have been talking of clubs the
system also already failed in the past and that the use of clubs would
mean that distribution of the subsidy would be dominated by politicians
depending on a political party which is strong in an area.

Commenting on this year’s budget Mutharika said Malawians should
expect another development budget which he said would ensure continuity
of the economic growth which he said Malawi has attained since 2006.

On food security Mutharika maintained that he believes that although
the country experienced floods and other disasters this year the
country would experience another surplus.

He, however, blamed private traders who he said create artificial
shortages by buying the maize and stockpile it in neighbouring
countries of Zambia and Tanzania with the aim of selling back to Malawi.

Mutharika also condemned the political violence in Machinga and Blantyre.

Commenting of the media role in the violence Mutharika quashed
complaints against two state controlled MBC and TVM that there were not
covering the opposition saying what did the opposition expect when it
denied funding to the two institutions.

"In fact there was no need to deny the two the funding, there could
have been dialogue. In future they would not be stupid to deny MBC and
TVM funding because actually this is April and we are going to the next
budget the two are still operating. What have they achieved?" said

Mutharika also said due to lack of funds the country will not hold
local government elections in 2009 since he said it is not only the
funding for the polls which will be needed but also money for the
allowances and salaries of the elected councillors.

He also said there will be a lot to be put into the elections, such
as capacity and civic education if the country will have two elections
at once.

"Do you want me to stop all the projects, schools, roads to have the money to give to the councillors?" said Mutharika.

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