Zikhale defends Bingu on Ndata mansion

By Wanga Gwede, Nyasa Times

President Bingu wa Mutharika’s close aide, Ken Zikhale Ng’oma has defended the Head of State for his multi-million kwacha mansion at Ndata Farm in Thyolo, saying it is only “five-bedroom” and a modest residence.

One of  the 20 demands in the petition the civil society organisations  presented to the President after July 20 anti-government demonstrations was  for him to explain his wealth, including how he built his Ndata Palace.

Ndata’s private palace is  estimated to have cost several million dollars, 58 rooms with adjoining bathrooms and spas, four floors, complete with escalators, a nuclear bunker and, next to the house, a dam thought to be worth a few more million, according to Nyasa Times sources.

But Zikhale said it was not obscene opulence considering the status of President Mutharika and denied that the mansion had been built with Malawian taxpayer’s money

“Ndata is five bed roomed house but it is built in the way that you people will be shocked,” Zikhale said.

Ndata palace of President Bingu wa Mutharika

“That man (Mutharika) has worked in several organisations including United  Nations. He was also with Comesa, he was deputy governor of Reserve Bank of Malawi, he was also a minister,” he added.

“Sometimes we really need to wonder because he has been holding very high offices and accumulating good packages,” said Zikhale.

He said ordinary citizens were building better mansions in the capital Lilongwe  than Ndata .

Zikhale said Mutharika will “invite” journalists to tour the Ndata Palace.

In a 2009 interview with the official Malawi News Agency, Mutharika trashed any suggestion that he had accumulated ill-gotten wealth. He reminded Malawians that he was the only president to have ever declared personal assets in the first place.

When he took power in 2004,  Mutharika declared personal assets were a little over $1m – mainly comprising a farm he bought from his Zimbabwean friend, Robert Mugabe, in 2001.

Naturally, President Mutharika pointed out, people should expect an increase in his assets since he has been receiving a salary and allowances as head of state.

In spite of the president’s vehement denial, there is no shortage of those who question how a mere salary and allowances could have made him so rich in so short a time.

However, his new house is one of the most striking signs that he has spent massively more than he has earned.

Ndata will be retirement home for President Mutharika that will rival the most extravagant of African leaders’ residences.

Observers say the palace is an affront to the suffering people of Malawi.

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