Open letter to Malawi First Lady Callista Mutharika

By Francis Chuma, Nyasa Times

Madame First Lady,

Don’t feel slighted that I have not addressed you as “Your Excellency,” as your husband prefers. I have always been of the opinion that “First Lady” is a title sufficient to make you feel respected, even pleased, because, the last time I checked, “Your Excellency” is reserved for Presidents and Ambassadors, which you are not.

The words you uttered in Mzimba are the reason for my writing this open letter to you. Among other things, this is what you said, according to the Daily Times: “Eighty-five percent of Malawians live in villages. Do these people need fuel for vehicles or forex to travel outside? Maybe I should ask you villagers: do you need fuel as if you have cars or forex as if you do cross-border trade? No! What you need is subsidised fertiliser to have more maize, you eat and that’s all. We have problems, yes, but these NGOs should not cheat you to go to the streets because of these little issues.”

Madame First Lady, I have always thought you were sensitive to the problems faced by the people, mostly us common men and women from the villages and small towns and big towns and the entire country. Your track record when Vice President Joyce Banda employed you at the Hunger project was the source of my opinion of you.  I now regret that I was wrong in my thinking.

Callista Mutharika; Her son wrote on Facebook tat she married a tyrant

It is clear, judging by your remarks, that, just like your husband, you do not know that we people in the village have maize mills that are run on fuel. When the fuel is scarce, we cannot grind the maize into flour. We, as a result, will sleep on empty stomachs.

I wrote recently about a Blantyre-based friend whose aunt in one of the villages of Karonga had to ask for K1,000 to be sent to her because she had been on a queue for one week and the maize-mill was yet to have fuel, so she wanted to go to Karonga town, hoping that the electricity-driven maize-mills would be working (assuming ESCOM was not in its bad mood, thanks to your husband’s terrible economic policies).

So, Madame First Lady, maybe you have never lived in any village, thus you do not know village life. We need fuel in the village. We need paraffin to light our koloboli lamps. We need fuel-powered ambulances that should not fail to rush our pregnant women for better medical services when the delivery turns awry (and to imagine that you, as a “champion” of safe motherhood – for which you are paid K1 million per month – cannot see the importance of fuel to the mission of safe motherhood in our villages!).

So, contrary to your thinking, fuel shortage is not a “little” problem to us. It might be to you, with a K1 million salary for charity work, but to us, who have nothing in our pockets, it is a crisis of unimaginable proportions.

It also became apparent in your speech that you do not watch the BBC, CNN and you do not read The Economist, Time or Newsweek – or indeed anything that might broaden your world view. You said that Greece has debt problems yet the Greeks have never conducted demonstrations against their government.

If you had taken your eyes off MBC – where news is anything in praise of your husband and yourself and your brother-in-law plus the praise-singing by Dr Hetherwick Ntaba, Simon Vuwa Kaunda and the chiefs – you would have seen that Greece has just endured some of the worst protests in history.

In fact, the latest protests were on Wednesday, June 29th, 2011. If you can take your time to Google, you will find reports by Washington Post, The Guardian, New York Times, Al Jazeera etc. You might stumble across a huge banner outside the Acropolis with the words: THE PEOPLE HAVE THE POWER AND NEVER SURRENDER.

Madame First Lady, it is advisable for you to stay silent if you don’t know what you’re talking about. My father has always had this advice for me, that “if you have nothing to say, say nothing, for by forcing yourself to speak, you will either tell lies or successfully make a fool of yourself.” I have listened to this advice over the years. You too might want to use it, Madame. Or, better still, you might want to listen to the wise voice of your intelligent son, Brian Chimombo, who thinks you married a tyrant. Check on his Facebook page, in case you think I am making this up.

In conclusion, you are on record to have told the civil society organizations and all of us Malawians protesting to “go to hell.” Well, Madam, aren’t we in hell already? Step out of your palace at night and look about, especially on those days when ESCOM decides to be frugal with power, which is almost every day these days. Well, Madam, can hell be any darker? I have my doubts. Mukakwera pamsana pa njobvu musamati kulibe mame (When you are having it so good, don’t think there is nobody suffering in this world).

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