…K40 million a day to be spent
…80 people likely travelling
US$20,000 can save a Malawian on a waiting list for a medical procedure in India but she has had to wait for six months, as banks have no foreign exchange to finance her trip, however President Lazarus Chakwera, elected on the promise to be a servant leader will be blowing close to 15 times the amount, just to appear at SADC and Bric talk shows that will add no value to the current economic meltdown.
The President left Malawi on Wednesday for a ten-day voyage of exploration of Luanda, Angola and South Africa, is being supported by no less than 40 people and two teams, some of whom travelled for preparatory meetings 10 days ago.
Here today, there tomorrow
The President now christened “Siku” after a local transport company with a slogan “here today, there tomorrow” travels every month despite failing to stabilise the economy and he has grown deaf ears to the plight of Malawians, according to social media comments.
This year alone, Malawi’s travelling President was in Doha and South Africa as 1300 Malawians were being killed by Cyclone Freddy in March this year. In April he attended a day long summit in Zimbabwean capital of Harare.
President Chakwera was up in the skies again in May, flying to the United Kingdom to attend coronation of King Charles III with a stopover in Nairobi, Kenya.
Reverend Dr. Chakwera was would not rest in June as he joined other Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) leaders in the Zambian capital of Lusaka.
The President would barely have time to follow up on the COMESA resolutions as he was already packing for his next air mile – China. He left Malawi end June and returned on second July for the China Summit he barely met anyone relevant save for a group meeting with the Chinese President.
August could not pass the President, days after Secretary to Treasury wrote that government was limiting foreign travel, generating laughter and ridicule at Capital Hill, as the President and a few selected Ministers are frequent flyers.
“There is nothing the President has said that has been done. His achievements so far are speaking and flying. He mocks the whole government machinery, asking them to stop travelling, when he is competing with birds in milage accumulation,” reads a social media post from a civil servant.
The real cost of Presidential travel
About 23 people travelled for preparatory meetings, and more arrived in Angola on Monday, with some already preparing to travel to South Africa for the BRICS summit.
The 23 officials include some from Foreign Affairs, State House, Trade and Industry, Tourism, Energy, and some parastatals including the Malawi Investment and Trade Centre and MERA and NOCMA among others.
There are 8 officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to our source and government has paid for six of the travelling officials. The other two are supported by International Human Rights body’s that are lobbying for Malawi’s Boniface Massah to become an AU Human Rights Commissioner.
The average stay for the technical team is around 10 days (including departure and return) as there are no direct flights to Luanda, Angola and our source at the Office of the President and Cabinet said a special waiver of receiving a higher rate allowance had been applied.
“The first list of 23 officials receiving one and half rate of US$420 means a cost of US$96,000 paid as allowance. As we don’t have a resident embassy, officials from our embassy and foreign affairs might have been here for a while to prepare, so the best estimate is that US$120,000 was spent for preparation and technical meetings,” explained our government expert.
The second trench of officials are likely to be around 20 and their stay capped at 7 days, that is two days before arrival of the President and two days of the summit, one day the President is resting and two days which includes a day after the President departs.
“State House remits anything between US$20,000 to US$50 000 in Africa for is costs. All its officials stay in government paid hotels despite receiving allowance. For this trip, you are looking at minimum 6 to 10 security guards in advance, four kitchen staff (two waiters and two cooks), Chief of Staff, two to three personal assistants, the President’s Secretary and likely an account official,” explained the former protocol official.
He added that Minister of Foreign Affairs and other Ministers are likely to have arrived by Monday for their summit alongside the advance teams for Malawi Defence Force, National Intelligence Service, and state media the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation and the Department of Information.
“4 from state media, 3 media personnel (including photographer), at least 3 Ministers, their PS’s and Directors, 15 from State House Staff, security and household, the MDF, NIS and at least 5 from other agencies, the total for 7 days team is around 37, each at US$420, you are looking at US$108 780.00,” explained our source.
60 plus 10
The President who arrived in the Angolan Capital on Wednesday flew to Luanda via Johannesburg which is likely to cost US$40,000 for the return trip, with Ethiopian Airlines quoting business class ticket at around US$6000 per person.
The President travels with his wife, medical doctor, ADC, Guard commander, bodyguard to the first lady, his executive assistant, assistant to the first lady and a valet.
This would bring the total number of people travelling with the President to around 60 to 65 and with a second meeting in South Africa, institutions are likely to send different teams from Malawi to South Africa.
“The group that is going to prepare the trip in South Africa boarded the same flight with the President. Meaning they will be in South Africa for 10 days. While state House, MBC, Information and Foreign Affairs are likely to send different teams to cover the President, give or take about 80 people will be travelling,” said our analyst.
With an average spend of close to US$156,000 on allowances alone, accommodation, air tickets and ground transport for the rest of the team, Malawians might be coughing over US$250,000 for a 10 day trip after spending already every month to satisfy the Presidents huge appetite for plane rides.