Malawi ministers’ pay-hike rejection ‘publicity stunt’

Reports reaching Nyasa Times indicate that Malawian President Peter Mutharika reject of a proposal by the Office of President and Cabinet to have cabinet ministers’ salaries increased from $1500 to $9000 per month was a panned publicity stunt made to get public’s attention that the President is keen to austerity.

The proposal, contained in a memo dated August 20 and written by Acting Chief Secretary to the Government Willie Samute, included amendments on salaries, loan facilities, housing rental entitlements, mobile phone allowances, local and foreign travel allowances, and hotel accommodations.

However, Nyasa Times has been informed by government insiders that it was work of PR aides to”send signals to donors that the President is not going to tolerate extravagance.”

Mutharika:  PR stunt

Mutharika: PR stunt

Malawi has yet to recover from a financial crisis caused by the stealing of millions of money from government coffers.

The proposal, contained in a memo dated August 20 and written by  former acting Chief Secretary to the Government Willie Samute, which  included amendments on salaries, loan facilities, housing rental entitlements, mobile phone allowances, local and foreign travel allowances, and hotel accommodations.

Mutharika responded to the memo in ink: “Proposal rejected. No revision or amendments to the present conditions.”

The response which was officially leaked by State House to the media is accompanied by the president’s signature and date.

But on Wednesday, Mutharika sacrificed Samute by appointing George Mkondiwa as chief secretary to government.

“The President has just pulled off the best PR stunt. It really does tick all the boxes,” said a source.

Mutharika hired a special aide on communications strategy Bright Malopa and has also an army of press aides headed by former Malawi News editor Fredrick Ndala as spokesman.

Ndala said Mutharika “finds it unethical to raise ministers’ salaries when the cost of living is not only high for them, but for every Malawian.”

According to the presidential spokesman, Mutharika, who came to power after beating Joyce Banda in May elections, will prioritise “the improvement of living standards of civil servants.”

The PR stunt swayed the civil society into praise mode for Mutharika and accusing the ministers for making “outrageous” demands.

Malawi Economic Justice Network (Mejn) executive director Dalitso Kubalasa described Mutharika’s rejections of purported pay-hike bid as “rational, befitting the realities [of the ailing] economy.”

Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) executive director, John Kapito, also praised Mutharika for “bold step” in rejecting the alleged proposal for salary increase.

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