Cabinet ProfilesHis Excellency Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika President of the Republic of Malawi. Back to Index of
Bingu wa Mutharika
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Bingu wa Mutharika
President of Malawi
24 May 2004
Vice President Cassim Chilumpha
Preceded by Bakili Muluzi
Born 24 February 1934 (1934-02-24) (age 75)
Political party UDF
Spouse(s) Ethel Mutharika (deceased)
Religion Roman Catholic
Dr Bingu wa Mutharika (born February 24, 1934) is a Malawi economist, politician, and the current President of Malawi. He first took office on May 24, 2004, after winning a disputed presidential election. With the support of President Bakili Muluzi, Mutharika won the 2004 election as the candidate of the United Democratic Front (UDF); he broke with the UDF (which remained under Muluzi's control) in February 2005, however, due to disagreements over Mutharika's anti-corruption campaign. He then formed a new party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), but lacked a parliamentary majority for the rest of his first term. He won a second term in the May 2009 election. His supporters credit him with responsible policies that have encouraged economic growth.
Born Brightson Webster Ryson Thom in Thyolo, about 30km from Malawi's commercial capital, Blantyre, he reverted to the family name of Mutharika and adopted the first name of Bingu during the 1960s when pan-Africanism was sweeping across the continent.
He later added the prefix 'wa' between his names to disguise his identity from Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda's state security, even though he was not a political opponent of Dr. Banda.
Mutharika was the son of a primary school headmaster. He was educated at the University of Delhi, India, where he gained a master's degree in economics. He later obtained a PhD in development economics from Pacific Western University, an institution criticized on multiple occasions as a substandard educational institution or 'diploma mill', in Los Angeles, California.
After serving in the Malawi civil service and also for a period in the government of Zambia, Mutharika joined the United Nations in 1978, where he eventually became Director for Trade and Development Finance for Africa. In 1991 he was appointed as Secretary-General of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), a regional body of 20 countries.
After Banda was forced to liberalise his regime, Mutharika says that he was one of the founders of the United Democratic Front, the party that won Malawi's first multi-party elections in 1994.
Mutharika was at that time a supporter of the UDF leader, President Bakili Muluzi, but he soon became a critic of Muluzi's economic policies and left the UDF. He formed the United Party (UP) in 1997 and unsuccessfully opposed Muluzi in the 1999 presidential elections, taking less than 1% of the vote.
Mutharika dissolved the UP and rejoined the UDF after being offered the deputy governorship at Reserve Bank of Malawi. He was appointed Minister of Economic Planning and Development in 2002, and was then nominated by Muluzi as his successor. Wa Mutharika won about 36% of the vote in the presidential election of May 20, 2004, ahead of John Tembo and Gwanda Chakuamba, and took office a few days later.
After taking office, Mutharika came into conflict with Muluzi, the Chairman of the UDF, over Mutharika's campaign against corruption. The dispute between them was an important feature of wa Mutharika's first term in office, and this political conflict was said to interfere with the country's governance. On February 5, 2005, wa Mutharika announced his resignation from the UDF, saying that he had no support in the party because of his stand against corruption. There had previously been talk of expelling him from the party, and there had also been an alleged assassination plot against him by party members in early January 2005. Those accused were later pardoned by Mutharika, but he maintained the existence of the plot. After leaving the UDF, wa Mutharika formed his own party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). In April 2005, Muluzi apologized to the country for choosing wa Mutharika as his successor "and imposing him on the country".
Gwanda Chakuamba, who had been appointed as Minister of Agriculture, was dismissed from the cabinet and subsequently arrested in September 2005 for making a speech predicting that wa Mutharika would be out of office by Christmas. In 2006, Vice-President Cassim Chilumpha was arrested; he was accused of plotting wa Mutharika's assassination.
It was reported in March 2005 that wa Mutharika was not sleeping in the state mansion because of suspicions that it was home to evil spirits. A presidential aide was quoted as saying that Christian clergy had been asked to exorcise the spirits. This was subsequently denied, and journalists responsible for the story, including a BBC reporter, were arrested. Wa Mutharika said that "I have not met any ghosts yet, I have never in my life been afraid of them".
Wa Mutharika has upheld the memory of Hastings Banda as a national hero, saying that he would continue Banda's work. In September 2004, he restored Banda's name to the national stadium, the central hospital, and the international airport; Muluzi had removed Banda's name from all three places. Wa Mutharika was present at the May 2006 unveiling of a mausoleum for Banda that cost US$620,000.
On October 7, 2006, wa Mutharika stated his intention to seek re-election in the 2009 presidential election as the DPP candidate. Two years later, in October 2008, the DPP's national governing council unanimously chose wa Mutharika as the party's candidate for the 2009 election.
While serving as President, wa Mutharika also holds the portfolio of agriculture and food security in the Cabinet, and in a Cabinet reshuffle on May 10, 2007, he additionally took over the education portfolio.
Wa Mutharika's wife, Ethel, with whom he had four children, died on May 28, 2007 after a long battle with cancer, during which she sought treatment in France and South Africa. A month of mourning was declared for her. Wa Mutharika's brother, Peter Mutharika, holds a doctorate from Yale and is a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
Bingu is popularly known as CHITSULO CHA NJANJI (steel railway track) among his supporters and the entire Malawi nation.
 2009 election
Main article: Malawian general election, 2009
Mutharika stood as a candidate for the presidency again for the 19 May 2009 elections. He was the nominee for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Due to his success in improving Malawi's economy during his previous presidential term he was a popular candidate even in the regions outside of the traditional northern "Home of the DPP". A study conducted by African based research project Afrobarometer projected that Bingu Wa Mutharika would win the presidential race with a 60% share of the vote.
Official election results show Mutharika won the presidential election with 2.7 million votes against 1.2 million for the main opposition candidate, Malawi Congress Party President John Tembo, who was backed by Muluzi. Mutharika was inaugurated for a second term as President on 22 May 2009.
Bingu wa Mutharika is re-instituting a quota system for student selection into the University of Malawi. This is seen as discriminatory by a majority of Tumbukas and other northern tribes in Malawi.
^ BBC NEWS | Africa | Profile: Bingu wa Mutharika
^ a b Elections in Malawi, African Elections Database.
^ a b "Political squabbles hamper governance, says conflict report", IRIN, May 26, 2006.
^ "Mutharika resigns from party, reshuffles cabinet", IRIN, February 7, 2005.
^ "Political infighting could destabilise govt", IRIN, January 31, 2005.
^ "Mutharika frees party leaders involved in "assassination" plot", IRIN, January 7, 2005.
^ "Malawi president 'a bad choice'", BBC News, April 5, 2005.
^ "Sacked Malawi minister detained", BBC News, September 14, 2005.
^ "Concern over threat of renewed political instability", IRIN, May 2, 2006.
^ "Malawi 'haunted palace' arrests", BBC.co.uk, March 17, 2005.
^ a b "Mutharika pays Banda a US$620,000 tribute", IRIN, May 17, 2006.
^ "Malawian president orders three facilities named after founding father Banda.", BBC Monitoring International Reports (accessmylibrary.com), September 15, 2004.
^ "Malawian president reveals ambitions for re-election", Xinhua (People's Daily Online), October 9, 2006.
^ "Malawi's Mutharika nominated for re-election", AFP, October 22, 2008.
^ "Malawian president reshuffles his cabinet", Sapa-AFP (IOL), May 11, 2007.
^ "Malawi in mourning after first lady's death", Associated Press (IOL), May 30, 2007.
^ a b "Malawi president wins re-election". BBC. 22 May 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/8062740.stm. Retrieved 22 May 2009.
^ Namangale, Frank (21 Oct 2009). "Munlo rebuffs Unima in quota system case" (in English). Nation Online: The Window on Malawi. http://www.nationmw.net/newsdetail.asp?article_id=3584. Retrieved 7 Nov 2009.
Bakili Muluzi President of Malawi