Who killed Malawi's president? Economic hubris


Malawi pallbearers carry the casket with the remains of Malawi's late President Bingu wa Mutharika at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe on April 14, 2012.


Amos Gumulira

NAIROBI, Kenya — Bingu wa Mutharika, the self-styled Economist-in-Chief of Malawi whose touchiness, authoritarian reflexes and blind belief in his own infallibility piloted Malawi's economy into a tailspin during his second term in office from 2009, wasn't much mourned after he died of a cardiac arrest earlier this month.

His deputy, Joyce Banda, has since been sworn in becoming — by happenstance — the continent's second female president.

A detailed report from Reuters reveals how Mutharika spurned all economic advice, refusing to meet an IMF delegation he thought was "too junior" and lectured CEOs he had gathered to discuss economic policy.

Mutharika's ongoing row with foreign donors on whom the country relies but who had been alienated by the dead president's increasingly erratic behavior made the economic malaise still worse.

"Mutharika blamed Satan, international donors and political opponents for the fiscal woes and cozied up to the Chinese, who helped build a massive parliament building in the capital. He wore Chinese-style attire and took out a $90 million loan from the Import & Export Bank of China to build a massive luxury hotel in Lilongwe," Reuters reports.

The man's hubris was his downfall but it his dire economic handling of his country may have directly contributed to his death. As Reuters reports, the medicines that might have kept him alive were largely out-of-stock thanks to lack of foreign exchange. Even if he had been put on life support power cuts are frequent and "the hospital's emergency generator was out of diesel."

Mutharika was flown to South Africa, but it was too late.