Chakwera K2 billion travel addiction

…takes a plane for a 20-minute flight to Salima

…blows fees for 2500 University students in 60 days

Malawi’s number one traveller- President Lazarus Chakwera, continues to blow public finances with his huge appetite for travel, an estimated K2 billion has been blown between November 2023 and 22 January 2024, sending Treasury officials into panic.

The President’s State House detail is estimated to have blown K300 million in one week alone from the 14th of January- when Chakwera travelled to Blantyre for John Chilembwe, where senior staff and gazetted security officials have been lodging in hotels- complete with free food, accommodation, and full allowances.

Travelled from Lilongwe to Blantyre by plane

Only the President and the First Lady do not get paid for local travel, according to our State House source, but he claims allowances for international travel that he was paid four days for his latest flying escapade to Congo.

The Investigator Magazine has also found out that the Department of Public Events is no longer responsible with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs protocol department of decorations at state functions, as a Malawi Congress Party (MCP) official with links to the State House now has a contract to decorate presidential functions, costing the taxpayers K2 million per event.

The President, excluding one event- Diplomatic Dinner at State House, has been out of State House in Lilongwe for an average of 30 days in 60 days, and out of them, 25 he has been on the road or in a foreign country, mocking his own words he pretended to have stopped travelling as part of his contribution to public austerity measures.

The fact is that he only stopped flying out of Malawi because there were no events he could attend, as most were shut down for the Christmas holidays.

November, Chakwera spent K900 million alone.

State House and Accountant General figures show the President spent at least US$240,000 (K408 million) on his trip to Saudi Arabia and Egypt in the jet charter, allowances, and part accommodation when he went to sign the Makanjira road and passed Egypt on his return for a Trade Fair.

President Chakweras trip to Saudi Arabia and Egypt were in the jet charter

Most State House officials now fly business class, and the Treasury was asked to pay allowances for guests and officials that Saudi Arabia might have already paid allowances and accommodation for. The guests included Chiefs, MCP officials and Members of Parliament from Mangochi whose presence did not add value to the taxpayer.

The President, according to our source, might have received at least US$12,000 (K20.2 million) in allowances, while senior officials are said to have received between US$5000 to US$17,000, some claiming advance party allowances that could account for over ten days for the five-day trip. State House paid for accommodation and meals for the staff as well.

Before he left for Saudi Arabia, the President’s engagements in the month included a National Unity event, which blew at least K150 million in organisation, hiring performing groups and fuel and security, and others who came across the country received allowances from the host Ministry of Local Government. An additional K50 million is thought to have been spent when he went to play golf at Lilongwe Golf Club for Poppy Day, mainly on security and fuel costs.

An additional K50 million is thought to have been spent when he went to play golf at Lilongwe Golf Club for Poppy Day

Chakwera’s money-blowing events included the launch of the AGCOM 2 at Ching’ondole Ground in Ntchisi on 16 November 2023, and the Ministry of Agriculture and State House expenses add up to K120 million for the event- from fuel, security, and allowances.  The costs do not include MDF, MBC, Information and other Ministries and Government officials that travel to the Presidential events. This, according to our analysts, would make K150 million a safe bet of expenditure every time President Chakwera decided to go on a jolly ride outside the State House.

The next day, the President hosted the launch of MACOHA week on 17 November, while on 23rd of November, he was out again to the BICC for Anti- Corruption Symposium. On 24 November 2023, President Chakwera broke another flying record- he took a plane ride to Salima, 110km from State House. The flight, according to a qualified pilot, is largely 20 minutes, with additional time being for landing and take-off.

“You can see Salima from Lilongwe immediately after you hit the skies. It doesn’t make sense the President would use two convoys and drive 30 km to Kamuzu International Airport, only to fly 60 km away. The man is addicted to flying; he can’t just fathom a month without seeing inside the plane,” said a former aviation official. The President was attending a Graduation ceremony of Senior Military Command.

The estimated expenditure for the month of November is K900 million, despite Mangochi, Ntchisi, Salima and Lilongwe District Councils failing to receive a total of K300 million in the four months to November for their operations. The President’s travels cost 1.4 million Malawians in the three districts to receive adequate services while he made up appearances to the tune of K900 million in one month.

Christmas, here today, there tomorrow

The President, according to his financial records, hit December with mapwevupwevu hosting Members of the Diplomatic Corps to dinner with outside catering on December 2, 2023, and on 5th December, he finally appeared at Capital Hill after months of absence to launch the Civil Service Medical Scheme.

On 7December 2023, President Chakwera sought God’s face at BICC before jumping on another plane to Blantyre for Human Rights Day at Chileka in Blantyre and returning to BICC for NGO day.

Over Christmas, the President took his staff and family on holiday in Mangochi, where there is no official accommodation for staff at Chikoko Bay and at least K130 million is estimated to have been spent during the holiday.

The total bill of K250 million is estimated to have been spent by President Chakwera in December alone.

K800 million already blown in 2024

Typical of the President’s promises, he decided to swallow his own promise not to fly out of Malawi until at least the budget year ends on March 31, 2024. The man was in the skies on 19th January 2024, blowing a cool US$130 000 from the State House budget that includes jet charter, which shows Malawi 1 in the aviation flight radar.

Bombardier Challenger 605 with registration 9H-VFE routine from Malawi to DRC and it was named to Mw1

The jet is by Dubai-based Vista Holding. Chakwera used a Bombardier Challenger 605 with registration 9H-VFE to travel to and from DR Congo. The jet costs at least US$ 10,000 per hour. The source of payment is yet to be confirmed.

Bombardier Challenger 605 with registration 9H-VFE which President Chakwera used to go to DRC

The plane tracker shows it came from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, to Entebbe in Uganda before arriving in Malawi at Blantyre to pick up Chakwera for DR Congo and return to Malawi on the 21st. Again, according to State House officials, allowances were paid in dollars.

The President’s staff have been in the Southern Region for almost ten days now, and the same with senior Police officers and Ministries, for which an estimated cost of K350 million will be blown in accommodation and allowances by the time the President decides to return to Lilongwe.

Chakwera left Lilongwe- using the MDF plane again- to Blantyre on the 14th, and he has been to Chiradzulu (15th), Blantyre and Chikwawa (17th) and Phalombe and Mulanje (18th) before taking a breather in Congo and returning to hit the road again this week. At K150 million a day, the President has blown K450 million, which, with the Congo trip, would make around K600 to K800 million 23 days into the New Year.

The bill could be higher as the Vice President and some of the Ministers also attend other official events.

Police Officers, civil Servants are tired and not paid.

Officials from the Malawi Police Services, Malawi Defence Force and the National Intelligence Services all accompany or attend Chakwera nonstop travels, but the junior officers are not being paid allowances- as the budgets have been overblown.

The President, now behaving like a travelling model, is avoiding roads as angry citizens have resorted to either booing him or blocking him, and it could be telling that Police and other security agencies are no longer keen to keep up with his travels as they are not being paid.

The unpopular President’s frequent travel has seen all government departments exhaust their budgets and institutions, such as the Department of Information and Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), struggling with bills to facilitate Chakwera’s unending journeys.

Security budgets are overblown and Chakwera seems not to get it that apart from State House, the rest of his contingent are not receiving allowances as their departments.

Police officers receive an average of K3000 to K17 000 for their operations at an event, and a Presidential event can attract at least 300 Police officers from lining the streets to those manning the event and those on security convoy.

Average spending on a long trip for the President, according to Police accounts for fuel, is around K5 to 10 million, but since August 2023, officers were told verbally that they would no longer be paid, and someone suggested they claim it as part of their pension.

“The whole year, we have been given a single set of uniforms, and we are left on the roads. We are picked up between 4 am and 5 am and spend the rest of the day on the road waiting for this man to come back. Most of us don’t even have a raincoat. Worse still, we are not given lunch allowances. If someone can tell this man to wait until the rains are over, we will be grateful,” said an officer we found along one of the roads.

Most officers are tired, and so too are government officials, which could explain the laxity in handling Chakwera affairs. None of the government departments mentioned in this story were ready with a comment.

What Chakwera’s travels could pay for

The K2 billion the President is projected to have blown for some of the mundane events could save lives or pay for essential services for struggling hospitals, schools and even save many from the current severe food shortages which are coming from a corruption infested procurement system within Chakwera administration.

Here are some of the things President Chakwera can reflect as he flies again to attend an event that does not add value to the lives of Malawians:

·       K2 billion the President has blown could have bought 50, 000 bags of maize and feed at least 200,000 Malawians who are now struggling to find food. In Dedza alone, the maize could save at least 50,000 who are said to have no food.

·       The K2 billion President Chakwera has blown in 60 days could pay for a new 2500 students in public Universities. It could support 8000 secondary students. Many of their parents are now struggling after the devaluation and consequent rise in school fees and cost of living.

·       K2 billion the President has blown in 60 days could pay for at least medications for 10 district Hospitals for three months.

·       The K2 billion President Lazarus Chakwera has spent since November is equivalent to 25 new school blocks or ten new health centres or complete the cancer hospital in Lilongwe. It can buy a new dialysis machine for Mzuzu and Zomba and maintain new ones.

Looking at the urgent need for public service, the President, who promised that he would be a public servant, needs to do a serious soul-searching before he jumps into his vehicle or MDF plane for another public appearance show. At least if he wants to get a decent vote in 2025.

Editors Note: We have traced The Investigator Magazine’s Fake Posters to State House associates. We have a brand-new seal which shows President Lazarus Chakwera riding a motorbike. Should any poster not have such a seal, please ignore it. We will continue to use the seal until those who fake posters using our brand and logos and their political masters realise disinformation can be costly for their leaders.

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