Parties to the United Nations (UN)-facilitated dialogue on Wednesday said Malawiâ€™s First Lady Callista Mutharika will not refund about K26 million (about $155 688) paid to her for almost 18 months in her capacity as national coordinator of safe motherhood.
Briefing journalists in Lilongwe on Wednesday to explain the outcome of the dialogue process between civil society organisations (CSOs) and Presidential Contact and Dialogue Group (PCDG), the two sides said government stopped paying the First Lady in January 2012 and that she has not been asked to pay back.
â€œAs CSOs, we said this was a give and take process and we said if the salary has been stopped, that is okay without necessarily pushing for her to give back the money,â€ said Voice Mhone, head of the CSOs dialogue team.
Natural Resources, Energy and Environment Minister Goodall Gondwe, one of the members of the PCDG, said they decided there was no need for the First Lady to pay back because there was nothing illegal about the whole process.
The First Lady has been getting a K1.4 million (about $8 383) salary since April 2010 for her work as coordinator of Safe Motherhood in Malawi, a role she took over from Vice-President Joyce Banda.
Her salary riled activists, politicians and citizens alike who accused President Bingu wa Mutharika of paying his wife for charity work.
The CSOs and the PCDG have been meeting since September last year to find solutions into the issues raised in the presidential petition.
Besides the First Ladyâ€™s salary, CSOs also demanded that the President demonstrates good faith towards the Office of the Vice-President by, among several issues, restoring her motorcade; the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) to investigate all those involved in the Malawi Housing Corporation (MHC) house sale scam and Mutharika to explain his wealth.
The two sides said government agreed to address the issues and what was remaining was an implementation process.
PCDG vice-chairperson Inkosi ya Makosi Mâ€™mbelwa IV of Mzimba said on the Office of the Vice-President, the two sides established that the current motorcade being used by the Veep was in line with the Presidential Benefits and Salaries Act.
Mhone said on the other issues such as the President declaring his wealth, the two sides agreed that government should come up with its implementation plan, but the CSOs will set up monitoring teams for each of the required action.
The dialogue was being mediated by the UN led by its under-secretary and director general of the UN office in Nairobi, Kenya, Sahle-Work Zewde.