Taskforce set to back First Lady over K1m salary

Malawi Government has formed a taskforce to back First Lady Callista Mutharika that she deserves K1.3 million salary per month for doing charity work.

The objective of the taskforce is in sharp contrast with what the Presidential Group on Contact and Dialogue and the civil society group resolved in their discussions that the controversial salary be scrapped from state payroll.

The First Lady has been getting a K1.4 million (about $8 383) salary since April 2010 for her work as coordinator of Safe Motherhood in Malawi, a role she took over from Vice-President Joyce Banda.

Callista Mutharika: Salary scrapped

Her salary was one of the 20 points in the petitions the civil society organizations presented to government as one of the conditions for them not to stage national wide demonstrations in protest against President Bingu wa Mutharika’s administration.

Activists, politicians and citizens alike accused President Bingu wa Mutharika of paying his wife for charity work.

Some of the members in the task force who have already received money from government to travel to some parts of the world to defend the salary are chairperson of the National Initiative for Civic Education Mabvuto Bamusi, chairperson of the Clergy Initiative for Integral Development Anglican priest Fr. Michael Mtambo and hi secretary Rev. Richard Padambo.

The three have already appeared on state Television and radio backing the First Lady that she deserves the salary because she is working as national coordinator for Safe motherhood, HIV, TB.

A government source said there is a special fund the task force uses to back government over issues which annoy Malawians.

“The money comes from the Ministry of Information and Civic Education in the form of civic education,” the source said.

“It is not the first time that these people have collected money from government for that kind of business,” the source added.

But the campaign the members of the task force have embarked on is not in the interest of the majority of Malawians.

“It clearly shows that these people are being used. It is unfortunate that some of the clergy in this country can stoop so low to be used by government over things which the majority of Malawians are against. Poverty is really a crime,” said one political commentator who refused to be named.

The three used to be critical of Mutharika but changed heart in search for money.

Callista’s salary was said to be equivalent to monthly pay for 30 nurses or about 100 primary school teachers

She will not refund about K26 million (about $155 688) paid to her for almost 18 months in her capacity as national coordinator of safe motherhood.

Besides the First Lady’s salary, CSOs also demanded that the President demonstrates good faith towards the Office of the Vice-President by, among several issues, restoring her motorcade; the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to investigate all those involved in the Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) house sale scam and Mutharika to explain his wealth.

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