Bakili Muluzi was born in the Machinga district of southern Malawi in March 1943. (Sources cite his birthdate as 1 March or 17 March.) After graduating from primary and secondary schools in Malawi, he attended Thirsted Technical College in Denmark and Huddersfield College of Education in the United Kingdom. Upon his return to Malawi, Muluzi became a clerk in the colonial service of Nyasaland. By 1968, he had become the government's court clerk.
When Muluzi was principal of Nasawa Technical College in 1973, Banda appointed him to Parliament. Muluzi rose rapidly within the ranks of the MCP, eventually holding important positions in the party and government. He returned to private life in 1982, however, and established a profitable transportation and agricultural business. In 1992, he became a founding member of the UDF. Even as president, he is referred to as Dr. Muluzi, having received an honorary degree at Lincoln University in Missouri in 1995.
Muluzi is a devout Muslim who has significant political support from southern portions of the country. He has seven children, two from his estranged first wife, Anne, and the other five from his second wife, Patricia Shanila Fukula. On 15 March 1999, Muluzi announced officially the separation from his first wife of 30 years, Anne, who also served as the first lady. Up until their separation in March 1999, Muluzi lived with Anne in the State House in Blantyre while the second wife, Patricia, resided at another of Muluzi's official residences in the former colonial capital of Zomba, some 70 km (40 mi) northeast of Blantyre. On 9 October 1999, to make her the official First Lady, Muluzi married Patricia in a lavish ceremony. Muluzi was heavily criticized in the media for his insensitivity and extravagance in spending thousands of dollars from public coffers on a private ceremony to host several heads of state who attended the wedding, while the majority of Malawians live in abject poverty and suffering.