Britain gives Malawi USD 80 Mn in annual aid – then country’s First Lady allegedly splashes out USD 100 K on a personal holiday trip to the United Kingdom. And everyone’s losing it!
Malawi’s ruling class is not having the best of times at the moment. Firstly, President Peter Mutharika has seen protests and clamours for him to step down only grow louder following allegations that he cheated his way into retaining power during the elections that were held in May this year.
Now, though, it is his wife – the country’s first lady — who has come under fire, and perhaps she always had it coming. Scores of protesters have taken to the streets of Malawi to call out Gertrude Mutharika for going on a personal trip with state funds.
Malawi; a former British colony known as Nyasaland, has struggled to stand on its feet since gaining independence in 1964. This has placed the country on some kind of yearly allowance from the Brits, with UK taxpayers giving the country approximately USD 80 Mn in aid every year.
And like clockwork, this year’s aid showed up not too long ago. And in the midst of the gripping economic hardship, the first lady is said to have taken out nearly USD 100 K out of the “country’s aid money” to fund her personal travels, leaving many incensed.
Gertrude Mutharika visited the UK last week to see her son graduate from university, while supposedly straddling along an unreasonably large group of aides including the wife of the Vice President, Judith Chimulirenji. The travelling party reportedly stayed at the five-star Dorchester Hotel, where rooms typically cost USD 900.00 to USD 1 K a night – and suites have a price tag of up to USD 7 K.
This has angered many of the locals. Reports of the trip have caused outrage in the African state, and understandably so. We are talking about a country where many are forced to survive on less than USD 1.25 a day.
A source told local news that the first lady was taking the citizens for granted. As they told the Maravi Post: “Mrs. Mutharika has gone there with over 12 personal assistants while Mrs. Chimulirenji with 10 personal assistants on this trip to the UK. It is uncalled for the statehouse to use taxpayers money.”
Another source, this one closer to the office of the President and Cabinet, was equally critical of the trip while informing that Mrs. Mutharika and her entourage all flew business class, living a life of luxury off taxpayers money.
“What is Mrs. Chimulirenji doing in the UK? Escorting a friend to the UK as if they are going to Chinakanaka market? We are being taken for granted as Malawians,” the source ranted.
Protesters have taken to the streets demanding that Mrs. Mutharika return the money spent on the trip. Mrs. Mutharika travelled to the UK to see her son Tadikira Mafubza – the president’s stepson – received his master’s degree in Civil Engineering, from the University of Greenwich in Kent on Thursday.
The Malawian authorities admit it was a government-funded trip. It is believed she also hired a UK-based security team to accompany her.
“I can confirm Her Excellency Mrs. Mutharika is in the UK at our government’s expense,” Malawi government spokesman, Mgeme Kalirani, told The Mail On Sunday, though the spokesman denied that the travelling party stayed in the Dorchester Hotel.
The Human Rights Defenders Coalition has threatened to drag the First Lady to court over allegations of going on a spending spree with state money to fund her private trip to the UK.
Political instability due to corruption accusations has been a fixture in Malawi in recent times. In 2018, Malawi’s president was forced to deny allegations of corruption, including claims he was given bribes of more than USD 3.6 Mn for a contract to supply food to the police.
In May this year, former Department for International Development Secretary, Rory Stewart, presented Malawi as an example of the failure of the UK’s foreign aid policy.
As he said; “The Government has spent something in the region of GBP 4.5 Bn (USD 5.5 Bn) over the past 50 years and Malawi is, if anything, poorer than it was when we started.”
It is on record that Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) spends about GBP 65 Mn (about USD 80 Mn ) each year in Malawi.
The country’s economy is heavily dependent on agriculture but even that has stalled given the election crisis and consequent political instability in the country. And now the masses want madam first lady’s head for what they think is another blatant show of disregard for their welfare.
Featured Image Courtesy: express.co.uk