By Emmanuel Muwamba – Police on Monday evening rescued a Malawian journalist Mike Chipalasa at Kamuzu International Airport after he posed tough questions to President Bingu wa Mutharika on issues of governance.
President Mutharika was returning from a state visit to Seoul, South Korea where he attended G-20 summit as rotating chairman of the African Union.
Among the issues that President Mutharika was expected to tackle were on the recent Roman Catholic Bishop’s pastoral letter which accused the President of undermining the office of the Vice President Joyce Banda.
Before his departure to Korea which also took him to India, the Episcopal Conference of Malawi released a pastoral letter which was signed by nine Catholic Bishops. The letter reprimanded Mutharika’s ruling party for disrespecting the country’s vice president, Joyce Banda, whose supporters say has become the target of a smear campaign by leaders of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
When journalist Chipalasa sought the President’s comment on the letter and issues raised, President Mutharika’s party supporters heckled him and it took the intervention of the President to calm the supporters down and allow the journalist to ask the questions.
After the press conference held at the Kamuzu International Airport grounds, about 10 DPP supporters followed Chipalasa and threatened to beat him up if he will ever attend another press conference organised by the State House let alone ask the tough questions.
The Daily Times a paper which Chipalasa works for carried a story in which the reporter says he was grateful to police for rescuing him. He was driven into a police vehicle to his work place from the airport about 20 km distance.
While responding to the Bishops letter, Mutharika said: “I don’t know what is the problem of the bishops. Vice President is Vice President. Period. Vice President is always on the carrier and cannot ring the bell of a bicycle.
“If the bishops want the Vice President to ring the bell, let them tell us. But the Constitution is very clear on the role of the Vice President,” said Mutharika.
Mutharika also defended chiefs in the country who have openly endorsed his young brother, Peter, as DPP’s presidential candidate in 2014 elections.
He said, “I want to repeat what I said before. Peter Mutharika is a citizen of this country and as such he has the right to vie for any position. Nobody should be penalized because he comes from the same family with the president. Is it an offence to come from the same family with the president? If chiefs want Peter, so what? Are you chiefs? What’s your problem?”
The endorsement of the Preisdent’s brother has raised eyebrows in the country which political commentators say has led to the undermine of the office of the Vice President who is rarely present during Presidential functions.