Crossing the Red Line: Do not take us for fools, spare Malawi First Lady these insults

Even the largest avalanche is triggered by small things-Vernor Vinge (American Writer)

Let me raise a glass for a toast to our First Lady Gertrude Mutharika. Since she officially wedded our President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, Dr. Gertrude Mutharika nee Maseko has been working on various noble projects and in the process transforming herself into one of the top most influential women in this country, and with her work leading the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) she has managed to extend this influence beyond Malawi. She is one of the First Ladies that, this far, has lived to the billing of that high office and has not disappointed.

Dressed like a school girl, First Lady participated in fashion show with a theme of Girl Child Education

First Lady Gertrude Mutharika (in purple) boarding the plane

And just a few days ago she killed it when she gallantly paraded on catwalk in a school uniform to send a message on the importance of education for the girl child showing all her zeal in encouraging our girls to remain in school and achieve more in life.

Gertrude Mutharika has indeed shown the way through her deeds and word in many other endeavors including the Beautify Malawi (BEAM) initiative which has been at the fore trying to transform our cities and towns with her clean environment initiatives. In all this she has shown that she is indeed a mother of the nation who deserves respect, unreservedly, as well as praise and encouragement from all of us regardless of our political beliefs and affiliation.

It is against this background that it was heartbreaking and really sad that last week the whole nation was up in arms against this virtuous woman reducing all her good work to rabbles. In the wake of her trip to South Africa, the First Lady became a center of ridicule and insults just because of a few political zealots who are bent to gain cheap political mirage and do whatever they can to remain relevant politically.

We are yet to be told whether this was a private or public business trip but my worry is that as a nation, mainly her political minders, we foolishly and carelessly let our small mindedness throw the First Lady into our everyday political madness. To say the least most of the comments on social media platforms directed at the First Lady were so demeaning, humiliating, degrading and not befitting her national standing.

As much as we can try to heap all the blame on a certain section of Malawians for their heartlessness as to throw unwarranted insults to the First Lady, in all honesty the bulk of all this ends at the door of the high offices within the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Yes we can blame her State House minders for their thoughtless approach regarding releasing timely and necessary information on the trip, but State House personnel are just employees who answer to their masters, the DPP politicians. The insults, including the speculation about her being sick or pregnant could have been avoided if these misguided politicians, through State House, were in the first place candid enough to come in the open and announce the First Lady’s impending trip to South Africa.

If the guys now running the affairs of our government have forgotten, here is a reminder. The office of the First Lady is a public office and the First Lady is a public figure. This is not merely by virtue of the woman occupying that office being married to our First Citizen. No. (There are instances in the USA and other countries whereby not all First Ladies were married to the President). First and foremost (to my humble thinking), this is a public office, that requires public scrutiny, only by virtue of that office being run on tax payers’ money. The house she lives in, the bed she sleeps on, the food she eats, the water she drinks and even the chair she sits on are all financed by our hard earned cash that we pay Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) to enable it, through Parliament, make an allocation for the running of the life of the President, the First Lady and their entire household.

Even this trip to South Africa is funded by us ordinary citizens. This is the whole rationale behind the argument of her being a public figure. This is the only reason that Malawians raised questions about her sneaking out of the country without a word. As someone surviving out of our purse, the information about her trip was supposed to be given out even before the South African Airways ticket was bought (using my money) and those sleek black SUVs (also bought and fueled on my money) were lined up at a fuel pump in readiness for the airport trip.

Yes she can have her own private life, but once my money is involved she trades off that privacy. And this is why we will always ask about her trips abroad. Period. And this is nonnegotiable. It is insulting and demeaning to Malawians (more than how the First Lady has been insulted and ridiculed for the past seven days) for a politician, who also breathes out of my money, to question why I am bothered to know where the First Lady is going; what she will be doing while outside the country; and when she will be expected back.

It is an insult to the honor of Malawians to argue that knowing where the First Lady is going will have no benefit on any Malawian as she is not the president, but just the wife of the president. It is even more disparaging, when these politicians try to peddle lies about the trip in a bid to fool those who are funding the trip. God forbid, but truth has to be told: if death (which we are all aware, knows no bounds) happens to knock on the door of the First Lady while she is on her trip, it is you and me who would pay for an expensive multi-million dollar casket befitting the First Lady. It is you and me who would pay for repatriation of what remains of her, probably on a chartered plane. It is you and me who would pay for a seven-day state funeral. And it is you and me who would be subjected to seven days of mourning. This is just because she is a public figure.

The problem with our politicians is that they are slow and gullible enough to learn from the past. This is if ever they learn at all. Or should we conclude that our politicians are so credulous not to understand that it is not all Malawians who are as stupid or naive as not to recognize a repeat of silliness when they see one. Our memory is still fresh how these same people (I mean these people currently running government in the name of DPP) ended with an egg all over their faces when they tried to play hide and seek with the illness of the then President late Bingu Wa Mutharika (May His Soul Rest in Peace) to the extent of secretly airlifting a breathless body out of the country under the veil of darkness, using a borrowed name. That could have been lesson enough to acknowledge that whatever games are played, no lie outlives the truth. Truth will always outsmart a lie. To any sane individual that was a telling moment to always come in the open with the truth in a timely manner, to avoid a repeat of the discomfiture that followed.

The unfortunate thing is that in all this drama it is the ‘innocent’ First Lady who is at the receiving end of the insults, humiliating, degrading and demeaning remarks. DPP politicians and whoever minds the First Lady’s business; please save the First Lady Dr. Gertrude Mutharika from such avoidable debacle so that we preserve the decorum and respect that goes with her office. This could be regarded a small issue to warrant national concern, but personally I have a reason to really get nervous. Certainly this small problem gives a bigger picture of how this DPP Government perceive Malawians

. For lack of a better coinage; for the DPP we are all fools who can be lied to without remorse and anticipation of any consequences. Provided the lie benefits them, it does not matter how you and me feel, although we pay their everyday bills.

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mjiba
Guest
Mr. Mphande nothing new with the wife of the president travelling abroad for private or official duties if assigned by the president. This trip could have gone unnoticed. The problem is with Protocol guys. Over doing Protocol for honourables, to the extent that a private trip is made a public function by unnecessary rolling over of a red carpet up to the stairs of the aircraft steps, a huge entourage as if the president himself is travelling really?? Gentlemen in Protocol and security a first lady adesa nsapato ha ha ha my foot!!!! mkazi wa bwanayu mukanamutenga ku state house,… Read more »
Thitherward
Guest
Dear Mr Mphande Your article highlights our need to clarify the status and role of ‘First Lady’. You use expressions such as ‘officially wedded’ and ‘high office’, but is the First Lady’s position an office? Is ‘First Lady’ an official title or a courtesy title? Is there a difference between being ‘legally’ wed and being ‘officially’ wed? If there is, then clearly there is a difference between the status of the President’s marriage and the status of the marriages of the rest of us. You say that ‘the office of the First Lady is a public office’, but is this… Read more »
Dipipi wa Yudiefu
Guest
That is why we also believe that the USA trip which Peter Muthalika takes every year is in fact designed to fulfill citizenship requirements in that country. That is why he over stays there each time he goes to the USA. There is already a lot of talking about meetings he is going to attend etc etc. All because they want to make us believe later that the long stay in the USA is genuine. It is a requirement that if you are a green card holder you have to live in the USA at least 1 month in the… Read more »
Mahera
Guest

Eeeeee. Amwene mwakalipa! Its okay, we are used to such secrets.

Nachipanti
Guest

Well articulated article. However, my take would be to question why the First Lady would opt to fly on SAA yet Malawi has an airliner which also goes the same route? We talk of patriotic citizenly and we should the First Lady to walk the talk especially when she is coming from the state house herself. We talk of buy Malawi campaign and why should her trip be exceptional? Lets be patriotic citizens.

Mika Kumbire
Guest
Mr. Mphande do you have any information of the first lady that we don’t know? I for one am not bothered because the first lady left in brood daylight with full military honors. Look around us first ladies trips are never announced on the radio. We only hear of them after they have said something or opened some function while already outside the country. Let’s stop creating storms out of a cup tea!! It’s not the first time the first lady has travelled out of the country without announcing. I personally still maintain there is no issue. It will be… Read more »
uchapwi
Guest

Even if you knew her itinerary well in advance, how would that knowledge contribute towards your socio-economic well being. Will that bring food on your table let alone buy mchere for your household? A Malawi timangowononga nthawi ndi zinthu za zii anzathu akupanga zinthu zoti zithandize kutukula miyoyo yawo. Choncho kumadandaula kuti tikuvutika chonsercho nthawi yathu imangopita pachabe. Ngati ili democracy ndiye tawonjeza nayo sikutipindulira

Madubeko
Guest

Their is truth some truth in this. Vuto si ife a Malawi but our upbringing ndi limene lili ndi vuto since 1964 up to now the government has always operated in secrecy, I bet that we as a citizenry we only now about 5% of how Governments operate, the rest lies in OPERATION SECRECY basi. i dont know how this can change, any one who comes into government just continues with it, za kwa a Gogo izi

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