Let me raise a glass for a toast to our First Lady Gertrude Mutharika. Since she officially wedded our President Professor Arthur Peter Mutharika, Dr. Gertrude Mutharika nee Maseko has been working on various noble projects and in the process transforming herself into one of the top most influential women in this country, and with her work leading the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA) she has managed to extend this influence beyond Malawi. She is one of the First Ladies that, this far, has lived to the billing of that high office and has not disappointed.
And just a few days ago she killed it when she gallantly paraded on catwalk in a school uniform to send a message on the importance of education for the girl child showing all her zeal in encouraging our girls to remain in school and achieve more in life.
Gertrude Mutharika has indeed shown the way through her deeds and word in many other endeavors including the Beautify Malawi (BEAM) initiative which has been at the fore trying to transform our cities and towns with her clean environment initiatives. In all this she has shown that she is indeed a mother of the nation who deserves respect, unreservedly, as well as praise and encouragement from all of us regardless of our political beliefs and affiliation.
It is against this background that it was heartbreaking and really sad that last week the whole nation was up in arms against this virtuous woman reducing all her good work to rabbles. In the wake of her trip to South Africa, the First Lady became a center of ridicule and insults just because of a few political zealots who are bent to gain cheap political mirage and do whatever they can to remain relevant politically.
We are yet to be told whether this was a private or public business trip but my worry is that as a nation, mainly her political minders, we foolishly and carelessly let our small mindedness throw the First Lady into our everyday political madness. To say the least most of the comments on social media platforms directed at the First Lady were so demeaning, humiliating, degrading and not befitting her national standing.
As much as we can try to heap all the blame on a certain section of Malawians for their heartlessness as to throw unwarranted insults to the First Lady, in all honesty the bulk of all this ends at the door of the high offices within the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). Yes we can blame her State House minders for their thoughtless approach regarding releasing timely and necessary information on the trip, but State House personnel are just employees who answer to their masters, the DPP politicians. The insults, including the speculation about her being sick or pregnant could have been avoided if these misguided politicians, through State House, were in the first place candid enough to come in the open and announce the First Lady’s impending trip to South Africa.
If the guys now running the affairs of our government have forgotten, here is a reminder. The office of the First Lady is a public office and the First Lady is a public figure. This is not merely by virtue of the woman occupying that office being married to our First Citizen. No. (There are instances in the USA and other countries whereby not all First Ladies were married to the President). First and foremost (to my humble thinking), this is a public office, that requires public scrutiny, only by virtue of that office being run on tax payers’ money. The house she lives in, the bed she sleeps on, the food she eats, the water she drinks and even the chair she sits on are all financed by our hard earned cash that we pay Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) to enable it, through Parliament, make an allocation for the running of the life of the President, the First Lady and their entire household.
Even this trip to South Africa is funded by us ordinary citizens. This is the whole rationale behind the argument of her being a public figure. This is the only reason that Malawians raised questions about her sneaking out of the country without a word. As someone surviving out of our purse, the information about her trip was supposed to be given out even before the South African Airways ticket was bought (using my money) and those sleek black SUVs (also bought and fueled on my money) were lined up at a fuel pump in readiness for the airport trip.
Yes she can have her own private life, but once my money is involved she trades off that privacy. And this is why we will always ask about her trips abroad. Period. And this is nonnegotiable. It is insulting and demeaning to Malawians (more than how the First Lady has been insulted and ridiculed for the past seven days) for a politician, who also breathes out of my money, to question why I am bothered to know where the First Lady is going; what she will be doing while outside the country; and when she will be expected back.
It is an insult to the honor of Malawians to argue that knowing where the First Lady is going will have no benefit on any Malawian as she is not the president, but just the wife of the president. It is even more disparaging, when these politicians try to peddle lies about the trip in a bid to fool those who are funding the trip. God forbid, but truth has to be told: if death (which we are all aware, knows no bounds) happens to knock on the door of the First Lady while she is on her trip, it is you and me who would pay for an expensive multi-million dollar casket befitting the First Lady. It is you and me who would pay for repatriation of what remains of her, probably on a chartered plane. It is you and me who would pay for a seven-day state funeral. And it is you and me who would be subjected to seven days of mourning. This is just because she is a public figure.
The problem with our politicians is that they are slow and gullible enough to learn from the past. This is if ever they learn at all. Or should we conclude that our politicians are so credulous not to understand that it is not all Malawians who are as stupid or naive as not to recognize a repeat of silliness when they see one. Our memory is still fresh how these same people (I mean these people currently running government in the name of DPP) ended with an egg all over their faces when they tried to play hide and seek with the illness of the then President late Bingu Wa Mutharika (May His Soul Rest in Peace) to the extent of secretly airlifting a breathless body out of the country under the veil of darkness, using a borrowed name. That could have been lesson enough to acknowledge that whatever games are played, no lie outlives the truth. Truth will always outsmart a lie. To any sane individual that was a telling moment to always come in the open with the truth in a timely manner, to avoid a repeat of the discomfiture that followed.
. For lack of a better coinage; for the DPP we are all fools who can be lied to without remorse and anticipation of any consequences. Provided the lie benefits them, it does not matter how you and me feel, although we pay their everyday bills.