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Ben Phiri resigns

Tereza Ndanga

Special Assistant to President Peter Mutharika, Ben Phiri, has resigned from his position.

Phiri did not hide his frustrations with the State House job in an interview with The Daily Times Monday, saying his life was in danger.

“It is only in Malawi that allegations of corruption are made and the one making the allegations is never taken to task. The perception that is out there is that I have accumulated assets amounting to millions of kwacha,” Phiri said.

He said he sent his resignation letter to Mutharika on Monday, saying he will be officially out of office come June 1, 2015.

“I just want to do the handovers. The President has not yet responded to my letter.”

Quizzed to explain why he expects a response from the President if he has made up his mind, Phiri said he was following protocol. He could, however, not say why he did not write the Chief Secretary who writes letters of appointments to political appointees.

In an indirect reference to the feud that exists between him and former State House legal adviser Allan Ntata, who claims that Phiri misguides the President, Phiri said the problem is made worse when the youth are used to destroy fellow youths.

“You (the youth) have portrayed the President as a puppet. Malawians voted for him. Let me pave way so that the President should do his work,” he said.

Ntata has been critical of the Mutharika administration, alleging that Phiri is the country’s de facto prime minister who pulls strings in the presidency.

Phiri said he is out of mainstream politics and will instead concentrate on studies that he is pursuing.

“I will be busy with my dissertation. I am a foot-soldier and will just wait for 2019 so that we do the work,” he said without elaborating.

Phiri’s closeness to the President created more enemies than friends with some ministers expressing discomfort over his role in the system.

There was also bad blood between him and Mutharika’s special adviser on communication Bright Malopa after Malopa allegedly warned the President that Phiri was messing up the President’s name.

Malopa skirted around the issue in earlier interviews while Phiri dismissed the rumours that he was a feared person in the administration.

But Phiri remained adamant in the interview yesterday.

“I am pretty sure I have served to my best of ability in all duties and responsibilities given. Unfortunately, there is a continuing disgruntlement within the society by me holding this position, and allegations made on wealth accumulated corruptly,” Phiri said, adding, “Let competent agencies probe me on the allegations.”

Presidential Press Secretary, Gerald Viola, faulted Phiri for not following protocol in his resignation.

“Under normal circumstances, he is supposed to write the H.E (His Excellency). H.E is the appointing authority but we get letters (of appointment) from the Chief Secretary,” Viola said.

Asked as to when Mutharika would respond to Phiri’s letter, Viola said: “The H.E will at an appropriate time talk to the Chief Secretary.”

But Viola called an hour latter, saying the President had not received Phiri’s letter.

“As I am talking to you right now, Mr. Phiri is working on an assignment assigned by the President. So, it is not true that Mr. Phiri has resigned.”

This comes just four days before Mutharika clocks a year in office. Ben Phiri has been Mutharika’s confidant since he returned to Malawi from his university teaching jobs in America.

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