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When the going gets tough, the president goes on a $500,000 holiday

4 November 2011
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Facing growing fuel scarcity and increasing losses in tobacco sales, Malawi’s president Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika has opted to go on holiday in Australia, requesting $500,000 in precious foreign exchange from two national banks, reports opposition media agency Nyasa Times. From the article:

An official said the president was not so much on holiday but on leave to ‘reflect on the Malawian crisis’.

Some Malawian tweeps wish they too could journey away and reflect:

The following is written in the spirit of assisting the president in his reflection on the crisis, especially given it must be a real challenge to do so when he is so far away and in such a different context.

The fuel situation seems to only be getting worse. There are more frequent and desperate sounding posts to the Malawi Fuel Watch Facebook group. The Daily Times reports:

The winding lines of vehicles appear and disappear on the roads across the country. Motorists now spend nights at filling stations with the unlucky ones not even buying a litre of the commodity.

The fuel situation is so bad it’s even affecting donors:

Being able to purchase fuel is akin to winning a prize nowadays:

Fuel isn’t the only thing for which there are long queues. As the planting season approaches, queues will be forming at all of the ADMARC depots where rural farmers will scramble to get fertilizer before it runs out (rumors are fertilizer is also in short supply). The Daily Times reports that “If you go to Shoprite today, you will also find lines end to end just for one to get a loaf of bread.” There is also a shortage of soft drinks in the country, which has created a funny, if sad, image of the state of commerce in Malawi:

Soft Drink Queue, photo by @Sir_Kia

Also, despite an earlier call by the president to end a strike at the University of Malawi by reinstating four lecturers fired from Chancellor College, the impasse continues. As I expected, the lecturers still harbor concerns about safeguarding academic freedom.

I’m not sure a $500,000 holiday in Australia can fix this. But here’s to hoping I’m wrong.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. 4 November 2011 8:24 am

    Ugh – I believe this story very firmly meets our expectations, but is it actually true? I’ve made this point before: the Nyasa Times used to have a history of blatantly making things up. Perhaps it has gotten more credible in more recent years, but I’m still wary of these damning stories which depend upon unverifiable sources – where is the corroborating information from the National Bank or RBM? Or even an attempt to ask them about it?

    Mutharika is doing much to wreck his country and deserves much of our ire, but please, let’s have some reasonable journalism.

    • 4 November 2011 9:19 am

      @Matt, I understand your concern with Nyasa Times, but in a situation where reputable journalists are afraid to say anything against the government, it is hard to only use papers like The Daily Times and The Nation as sources for what is really happening in Malawi. It has been stated time and again by journalists and media watchdogs that the space to question the president in Malawi is rapidly diminishing. We should thus consider independent news agencies (even if they are known to be opposed to the government), citizen reporters, and aggregate information from sources via Twitter and Facebook.

      Nonetheless, this is why whenever I post anything from Nyasa Times I make it clear that they are an opposition media agency.

    • 5 January 2012 9:29 am

      The country is in big trouble and false or true manipulated information is just making things worse because it takes away the confidence for those who want to fight back for the country to be restored.

  2. 4 November 2011 1:52 pm

    watch that man. turn his eyes to the south for an example of how not to run a country. zimbawean

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