THE First Lady of an under-developed African nation enjoyed trip to London costing up to £80,000, despite the UK taxpayers giving £65million a year in aid.
Gertrude Mutharika, wife of the President of Malawi, visited the UK last week to see her son graduate from university.
She and a large group of aides, including the vice president’s wife Judith Chimulirenji, reportedly stayed at the five-star Dorchester hotel, where rooms typically cost £700 to £900 a night – and suites have a price tag of up to £5,500.
Reports of the trip have caused outrage in the African state, where many are forced to survive on less than £1 a day.
A source told local news the trip was the first lady taking the citizens for granted.
They told the Maravi Post: “Mrs Mutharika has gone there with over 12 personal assistants while Mrs Chimulirenji with 10 personal assistants on this trip to the UK.
“This is uncalled for the statehouse to use taxpayers money.”
A source at the Office of the President and Cabinet in capital Lilongwe blasted the trip at the “government’s expense”.
They said: “They are all flying business class.
“I think this is taking Malawians for granted.
“What is Mrs Chimulirenji doing in the UK? Escorting a friend to the UK as if they are going to Chinakanaka market?
“We are being taken for granted as Malawians.”
The Maravi Post estimates the trip cost MK50million or £53,497.
Protesters have taken to the streets demanding that Mrs Mutharika return the money spent on the trip.
They are also alleging fraud in the country’s recent elections in May, which resulted in Peter Mutharika retaining power.
Malawi was a former British colony known as Nyasaland and has received billions of pounds in aid from the UK over the past 50 years.
Mrs Mutharika came to the UK see her son Tadikira Mafubza – the president’s stepson – receive his master’s degree in civil engineering. from the University of Greenwich in Kent on Thursday.
The Malawian authorities admit it was a government-funded trip.
It is believed she also hired a UK-based security team to accompany her.
They are all flying business class. I think this is taking Malawians for granted.
Malawian government source
Malawi government spokesman Mgeme Kalirani told The Mail On Sunday: “I can confirm Her Excellency Mrs Mutharika is in the UK at our government’s expense.
“Her travel, security and accommodation were arranged by our High Commission in London.”
However, he later told the paper the High Commission booked several different hotels and added she was not staying at the Dorchester, but could not say where she was staying.
The Human Rights Defenders Coalition has threatened to drag the First Lady to court over allegations over spending spree to fund her private trip to the UK.
The country has long suffered political instability over corruption accusations.
Last year, Malawi’s president denied allegations of corruption, including claims he was given bribes of more than £3million for a contract to supply food to the police.
In May, former International Development Secretary Rory Stewart presented Malawi as an example of the failure of the UK’s foreign aid policy.
MOST READ IN NEWS
He said: “The Government has spent something in the region of £4.5 billion over the past 50 years and Malawi is, if anything, poorer than it was when we started.”
Britain’s Department for International Development (DFID) spends about £65million each year in Malawi.
A DFID spokesman said: “No UK aid funding is given directly to the government of Malawi, and no UK aid has been spent on this visit.”
The country has a population of about 18million a nominal income per capita of £306, making it one of the world’s poorest countries
This past election in May saw evidence of widespread irregularities and the EU said the president’s party had abused state resources
The economy is heavily dependent on agricultre and the election crisis lead to stagnation in growth
We pay for your stories! Do you have a story for The Sun Online news team? Email us at email@example.com or call 0207 782 4368. You can WhatsApp us on 07810 791 502. We pay for videos too. Click here to upload yours.