Famous Person

Bingu wa Mutharika

Bingu wa Mutharika

Third President of Malawi

He was the first Malawian President to be Chairman of African Union (AU).

Year of Birth  24 February 1934
Place of Birth Thyolo, Malawi
Year of Death 5 April 2012
Place of Death South Africa
Period of Presidency 2004-2012
Political Parties Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)

Main Political Career

1978-90 Director of Trade and Development Finance Africa at the United Nations
1991-97 Secretary-general of Common Market Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) which is formerly known as Preferential Trade Area of East and Central Africa (PTA)
2002-04 Minister of Economic Planning and Development

Deputy Governorship of the Reserve Bank of Malawi

2004-12 President Republic of Malawi

Minister of Agriculture & Food Security

Minister of Education & Human Resources

2010-2011 Chairperson of the African Union

Personal and Family Life

Bingu wa Mutharika was born as Brighton Webster Ryson Thom on 24 February 1934 in the Thyolo District, Nyasaland (now Malawi).

He changed his name to Bingu Mutharika during the 1960s when pan-Africanism was sweeping across the continent.

He later added ‘wa’ between his names to disguise his identity from Kamuzu Banda’s state security.

He married Zimbabwean Ethel Zvauya Mutharika, with whom he had four children.

Ethel Mutharika died of cancer on 28 May 2007.

On 1 May 2010, Mutharika married Callista Chimombo, a former Minister of Tourism.

Mutharika died of a heart attack on 5 April 2012 at the age of 78 after flown to a South African hospital due to power outages in Lilongwe.

His death was officially confirmed on 7 April, the day that Joyce Banda was sworn in as Malawi’s first female president.

Educational Background

He completed his primary education at Ulongwe Mission and Chingoli Primary School in Thyolo and Henri Henderson Institute in Blantyre.

In 1956, he obtained a Grade A Cambridge Overseas School Leaving Certificate at Dedza Secondary School.

After that, he joined the Nyasaland civil service.

In 1964, he was selected by Hastings Kamuzu Banda to travel to India on an Indira Gandhi scholarship for fast track diplomas.

In India, Mutharika earned a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and a master’s degree in Economics from the University of Delhi.

He later obtained a PhD degree in Development Economics from Pacific Western University, Los Angeles, USA.

Mutharika also completed short courses on Business Management, Financial Analysis, Trade Promotion, Political Leadership, Regional Economic Cooperation, and Human Relations.

Political Career

In 1992, Mutharika co-founded the United Democratic Front (UDF).

He stood as a presidential candidate for the United Party (a party he had formed) in the 1999 presidential election, but he came last among the five candidates.

Presidency (2004-2012)

Mutharika was nominated by President Muluzi as his successor.

Mutharika won the presidential election in 2004.

The first term of Mutharika’s presidency (2004-2008) was said stunningly successful.

A strong emphasis on agriculture, food security, and seed availability led to a high rate of food surpluses and it seemed that the agricultural sector was being transformed.

He founded several universities of agriculture.

In foreign policy, he rescinded Malawi’s recognition of Taiwan and in 2007 established diplomatic links with Beijing.

In return, China made availability an immediate USD260m loan and kickstarted a trading relationship whereby China-Malawi trade rose to USD100m (45% of Malawi’s overall trade).

China spent USD41m on Malawi’s new parliament building and USD90m on Bingu wa Mutharika International Convention Centre (BICC).

In 2009, Malawi’s Ministry of Finance estimated that during the previous four years the share of Malawians living below the poverty line fell from 52 percent to 40 percent.

In the 2009 general election, he was re-elected to the Presidency with around two-thirds of the vote. Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) also obtained a majority in Malawi’s parliament.

During his second term, diplomatic relations with Western donors got worse due to purchasing a private presidential jet in 2009.

After a few months, he again locked horns with the West when a gay couple wedded through a public traditional engagement ceremony in Blantyre.

Mutharika’s government arrested the couple with a jail sentence of 14 years.

Western donors and human rights bodies including the UN condemned Mutharika for the arrest and accused him of violating human rights.

In 2010, Mutharika expelled his vice-president, Joyce Banda from the party because she refused to accept the nomination of Peter Mutharika as the next president.

She remained vice-president because there had been no formal impeachment process.

As the international recession took hold, and the knock-on effects were felt in Malawi, fuel shortages and increased urban unemployment led to street protests.

In 2011, 19 protesters were dead in the northern cities of Karonga and Mzuzu as a result of police using live ammunition to quell protests.

Chairperson of the African Union

On 31 January 2010, Mutharika replaced Muammar al-Gaddafi as chairperson of the African Union (AU).

Mutharika was Malawi’s first President to be Chairman of the African Union.

He attended G8 summit in Canada and G20 summit in South Korea as African Union chairperson to foster the image of a technocratic and democratic African leader.

In addition to championing food security in Malawi, Mutharika laid down a plan for Africa to achieve sustainability and food security.

He persuaded the African Union to adopt his “African Food Basket” vision, outlining a strategy incorporating subsidies to small farmers and improving agriculture and food security over 5 years.

Other Presidents of Malawi

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Joyce Banda (2012-2014)
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