Malawi First Lady Gertrude Mutharika has made headlines in the United Kingdom where she went to attend her son’s graduation ceremony.
Mutharika left the country together with Judith Chimulirenji who is wife of Malawi’s vice president to attend the graduation of her son Tadikira Mafubza with the trip costing taxpayers at least K30 million.
The UK Daily Mail accused Mutharika of lavishness saying the First Lady and her entourage were staying at Dorchester hotel, where rooms typically cost £700 to £900 (about K680,000 to K865,000).
“The First Lady of a desperately poor African state which receives £65 million a year in aid from British taxpayers has spent an estimated £80,000 on a trip to London.
“She and a large group of aides have been staying at the five-star Dorchester hotel, where rooms typically cost £700 to £900 a night, with a price of up to £5,500 for suites.
“Reports of the trip have caused outrage in Malawi, where ordinary people are forced to survive on an average income of little more than £1 a day,” the paper reported.
According to the newspaper, several members of Mutharika’s entourage were seen leaving the Dorchester Hotel with suitcases.
An official at Malawi’s High Commission in London expressed anger over the trip: ‘The first lady and her son are out here squandering taxpayers’ money while ordinary citizens are unnecessarily dying in hospitals due to lack of medicines. This is really sad. This should not be allowed – such conduct is tantamount to crimes against humanity.’
Malawi gets aid from the UK through Department for International Development (DFID) but the funds are not given directly given to the government of Malawi.
Last week, the Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) which has been organizing post-election demonstrations said it will drag the first lady to court if she does not return the money used for the trip.