Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have issued a seven-day ultimatum to First Lady Gertrude Mutharika’s Beautify Malawi (Beam) Trust to refund money amounting to K5 million she collected from the country National Aids Commission (Nac) to to fund activities that have nothing to do with the fight against the HIV/Aids pandemic or else they will hold mass protests .
The ultimatum is also extended to Mulhakho wa Alhomwe, a tribal grouping that President Arthur Peter Mutharika belongs and is its patron as well as the country’s National Intelligence Bureau (NIB) drew a total of K57.4 million from Nac.
Speaking at a news conference on Wednesday, the organisations included Centre for Human Rights and Rehabilitation, Malawi Health Equity Network, Malawi Network of People Living with HIV and Aids, Manelera, Centre for the Development of People said if the money is not refunded in the time given, they will mobilise Malawians and hold countrywide demonstrations.
“We have for instance noted the first lady Gertrude Mutharika lame excuse to attempt to exonerate herself from NAC-gate by saying she did not use any political influence to get the K5 million. But abusing NAC funds is unacceptable. They should refund the money or else we will demonstrate,” said CEDEP boss Gift Trapence.
Trapence said that CSOs will write all donors and Global Fund to inform them on the abuse of the Aids money.
Executive Director of Malawi Health Equity Network Martha Kwataine said “Malawi has suffered too much to tolerate another dimension of cash-gate with the name tag called NAC-gate.”
“If she [Mutharika] thinks the lives of Malawians can be put on hold simply because she wants to promote her trust, then she should think again. We have given her seven days from today, inclusive of Sundays, and if she fails, she will have swallowed a bitter pill. If there is money that should never be tampered with, it is NAC money because Malawi does not contribute a single tambala to NAC.”
CHRR executive director Timothy Mtambo said Malawians have right to demonstrate peacefully on matters of concern.
“Madam First Lady should know that NAC has its window where it calls for proposals from institutions and organisations in the HIV and Aids response and not to solicit funds for unrelated activities in the manner that was applied in this case,” he said.
Mtambo said health and specifically AIDS funding in Malawi is mainly donor supported by more than 90%.
“The money is entrusted to government on behalf of all Malawians to reverse the AIDS epidemic. It is given on trust to Malawians for appropriate use as often stipulated in funding conditions. We therefore find it irresponsible for an elected government to abuse its power which would lead to Malawians themselves failing to cope with their already staggering health conditions,” he said.
But in an interview with Nyasa Times, deputy chairperson of the Mutharika Trust, expressed surprise over the manner in which CSOs are handling the issues, saying it is being blown out of proportion.
Magalasi said his organisation has never been given money in form of grant.
“NAC invited us to come up with the proposal [to get funding],” said Magalasi.
Ironic enough, it is the same NAC which, a few months ago, was asked by Global Fund to refund the unaccounted-for money worth millions of kwacha.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Health chief medical services director Charles Mwansambo told the Parliamentary Committee on Health that NAC is undergoing an audit following reports that it disbursed money to organisations which did not have core HIV programmes, but had links to the governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :