When Malawi’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party last month endorsed President Bingu wa Mutharika’s younger brother as a candidate in 2014 elections, many Malawians, including myself felt betrayed and angry. My fears were that the move could inflame opposition to the president and ignite an internal revolt within the party. And this is what is happening. Peter Mutharika, a retired U.S law professor, has ignited an internal fight in the party with his leaked comments on another party strongman, Henry Chimunthu Banda who is also Speaker of Parliament. His comments, insiders say, has set the ruling party on a collision course that will see massive defections next year. This is worrisome for President Mutharika who is already facing a public protest against his rule. Protesters this month staged unprecedented protests against him that left 19 dead and led to international rebuke. Perhaps sense aware of the threats, Mutharika decided to dissolve the cabinet last week. Its two days now and the country is still without a cabinet. Some political commentators think that the decision is to try to remind his ministers of who is in charge.
Over the weekend, rights groups gave the President a September 21 deadline to listen to their demands, promising a fresh wave of protests if he does not address the chronic poverty that has ensnared most of the southern African country’s 13 million people. The protest would further weaken the ruling party and fuel discontent in its ranks with several MPs and officials distancing themselves from the president and resigning after the violent response to protests. Ordinary Malawians, frustrated by a chronic lack of foreign exchange and fuel that they say belies the economy’s stellar growth statistics, want Mutharika out. A former World Bank economist, Mutharika has been caught napping and seem to have no answers. He is embroiled in a diplomatic row with Britain, Malawi’s biggest donor, over a leaked embassy cable that referred to him as “autocratic and intolerant of criticism”. The cable led to the expulsion of Britain’s ambassador to Lilongwe, and in response, Britain expelled Malawi’s representative in London and suspended aid worth millions of dollars. The freeze has left a yawning hole in the budget of a country that has relied on handouts for 40 percent of its revenues, and intensified a dollar crunch. The question is, what happens next? Of course, its now clear that as long as Mutharika continues pushing for his brother to take over and fails to address concerns raised by rights groups, Malawi is set for more troubles ahead.