by the Nation
President Bingu wa Mutharika made
news by bringing home K40 billion from the People’s Republic of China.
This became big news on front pages of both dailies.
So, former president Bakili Muluzi, feeling outdone, thought he
could make news, too. Seven days ago, he went to Metro Cash and Carry
shop in Blantyre, and left an open cheque for a bill of all the
shoppers. But he did not know that some UDF officials who knew about
his visit alerted party supporters to come to Metro.
They picked what they wanted. Some allegedly stood at the gate to
rob people what they thought Atcheya had paid for, forgetting some
people paid with their own money because they had come to shop anyway.
The Young Democrats were reminded of the days they were in control of
It was all chaos as between 80 and 100 people stampeded into the
shop and fought over items. In short, the shop was filled with chaos
not shoppers. Honest shoppers should have been sidelined in the whole
stampede. Metro, by all standards, offers almost all groceries under
one roof. Shoppers do not have to move from one shop to another. You
buy groceries at wholesale price, too.
The K21 million bill that came from Metro shocked Muluzi.
"He...ordered several UDF members to verify the figure by adding up
numbers on the scores of nearly one metre-long till-slips," Press
Corporation Limited group operations executive responsible for trade
Pius Mulipa told The Nation on Thursday last week.
It should have been real shock. Imagine Muluzi telling party officials, including Brown Mpinganjira, to verify till-slips.
And imagine Mpinganjira or BJ as he is fondly called—presidential
material as he is, he contested in 2004—standing there, hours on end,
attempting to save Atcheya from a huge bill that he did not expect.
Several things come out clear from the episode.
One, Muluzi does not necessarily plan, meaning he does not have a sketch of what he is going to do and likely results.
Two, he is not as rich as he used to be when he was in power. Three,
Muluzi does not understand the order that accompanied his activities as
President was made possible by his security detail. If he went to Metro
while President, security personnel would have prevented any stampede.
Four, Muluzi is still in the past, believing that people want
hand-outs. That culture is changing, hence Muluzi has found himself in
real trouble. He has himself to blame because he has to settle down the
Mulipa said the shop expected Muluzi to pay cash because goods are
not bought on credit. "Many things were broken but I can’t tell you
anything yet because we are currently conducting a stocktaking exercise
to assess the damage," said Mulipa.
That exercise ended on Friday, meaning the shop lost two and a half
days of business. "These are end month trade days when we make more
money than usual. Add this to the damage done on Wednesday and I am
sure we have lost large sums of money," said Mulipa.
What does Muluzi want to achieve? Number one, votes both at the UDF convention and in next year’s presidential elections.
Secondly, Muluzi wants to show he still has money—which he does not
have, anyway; that he too can make news by paying for people’s
groceries at a big shop like Metro. Now this has turned into a real
scandal that has sent the Chilumpha camp and others into laughter.
Beyond this, all UDF officials tired with Muluzi are laughing in
their hearts while faking tears for him. Not many are sympathising with
Muluzi and, of course, he has to pay up the bill. How do Malawians
trust the presidency to a person who cannot settle bills?
This Metro episode is the last blow to hit Muluzi. People tend to
remember recent history and two great things Muluzi did for Malawi.
One, he was among those who led the fight for multiparty democracy.
Secondly, he gave the country Mutharika as presidential candidate. Now
Malawians are enjoying reasonable economic, moral and social growth
never witnessed during the Muluzi decade.
But Muluzi missed one more thing: honourable retirement. He should
have embarked on charity work. Muluzi should have been running his
Bakili Muluzi Aids Foundation which was opened with pomp at Chichiri
International Conference Hall by Zambia’s founding president Kenneth
Or, Muluzi should have been busy with his Bakili Muluzi Institute
(BMI) which died immediately he left government. If he had retired
honourably, he would have been a regular guest of honour at official
functions, opening roads, bridges and conferences.
In that case, Mutharika would have been in UDF by now, perhaps a new
look UDF. If Muluzi had retired honourably, Atcheya would have been the
guest of honour when the grain silos were opened in Mangochi.
Finally, if he had retired honourably, Muluzi would have been part
of the joy of the new roads under construction. Consider the
Mangochi-Monkebay Road, the Nchalo-Nsanje Road, the Chiradzulu-Phalombe
Road or the Jali-Phalombe Road. Muluzi would have been making speeches
at official functions. He would have been saying:
"Ladies and gentlemen, I was resting at Kapoloma when our President
called me and invited me to be with you. In case you have forgotten
(poti Amalawi simuchedwa kuyiwala), my work was to change politics and
that is what I want you to remember. The rest is for Mutharika. Please
support him." Ululation and hand-clapping would follow.
But this is not what is happening. Instead, Muluzi is busy
castigating his own choice. Muluzi is busy fighting a man he gave to
UDF and Malawians chose for the presidency.
One way of achieving this was to pay for shoppers at Metro Cash and
Carry. Everything worked against him. It is not that he will not pay
the bill. It is the reputation at stake