Mutharika in Nigeria, Callista not on ‘secret’ trip

First Lady Callista Mutharika did not accompany President Bingu wa Mutharika when he secretly sneaked out of the country on Tuesday to Nigeria, as she was attending a funeral in Thyolo, Nyasa Times learnt.

Mutharika left Malawi early morning on Tuesday around 6.45 am, a trip which was not announced only  to be exclusively reported by Nyasa Times.

The President, aboard a presidential jet, was accompanied by five other officials but his wife Callista was not present.

Nyasa Times correspondent said Malawi First Lady was attending a funeral of the late Benard Naphiyo at Mpemba in Blantyre. The late Naphiyo, 86 years old, passed away on Saturday.

He was father to Scolastica Chidyaonga, a board member to the First Lady’s Callista Mutharika Foundation. Mrs Chidyaonga is also a very close personal friend of the First Lady.

Mutharika: In Nigeria

Government officials flatly refused to confirm that Mutharika had flown to Nigeria, with some calling it a “private visit” while others termed it as a“working visit.”

Adding to the intrigue , a senior cabinet minister claimed he had not  been briefed on the President’s trip to Nigeria and wondered if it was official foreign engagement.

But Nyasa Times on Tuesday evening monitored Mutharika’s arrival in Nigeria through the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA). The ageing President looked tired but well.

Despite government not announcing the trip, Nyasa Times exclusively revealed that Mutharika had flown out of the country on a presidential jet through Kamuzu International Airport.

Government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati and Presidential spokesman Hetherwick Ntaba dogged Nyasa Times enquiries during the day.

Deputy foreign affairs minister Kondwani Nakhumwa flatly refused to comment.

Recently, Mutharika also sneaked out of the country to hold secret talks with Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

Government sources said the President was making the ‘mysterious’ trips to seek help  on Malawi’s fuel crisis.

Malawi has been hit by an aid freeze since last year when it’s key donors withheld budget support aid and the IMF suspended the Extended Credit Facility programme due to concerns over Mutharika’s creeping autocracy, which has resulted in economic mismanagement.

European Union (EU) has since warned that Malawi should forget about getting balance of payment support from its key donors any time soon in the absence of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme.

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