State House has been caught in yet another abuse of power debacle after the presidency reportedly ordered government ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs) and private entities to give business to the Mutharika-owned radio station, Galaxy FM, Weekend Nation can reveal.
Weekend Nation has in possession of a memo from President Peter Mutharika’s press secretary, Gerald Viola—a former employee of Galaxy FM himself—addressed to various MDAs, urging them to grant business to the radio station “whenever necessary”.
Reads the memo dated 13 July 2013: “This communication serves to plead with your department to make good relations in business where necessary with Galaxy FM. The radio station would like to get adverts from you whenever you feel advertising some of your products. In case of confirmation, never hesitate to contact the undersigned.”
While confirming authoring the memo, Viola yesterday sought to clarify the matter by saying it was written while he was director of information, but that a Galaxy Radio representative later edited it to reflect his new position.
Viola was director of information from July 2014 until in April 2015 when he was made presidential press secretary to replace Frederick Ndala.
Viola expressed regret for the leakage of the memo, saying had he known he would be appointed presidential press secretary, he would not have authored it.
“I wrote it as an introduction to the departments not as an order. You can see that the memo emphasised ‘whenever necessary’, meaning the departments were not under any pressure to transact business with Galaxy FM. That memo was addressed to private entities as well,” said Viola.
But Centre for Human Rights Rehabilitation (CHRR) executive director Timothy Mtambo yesterday described the memo as a clear demonstration of abuse of power.
Galaxy FM was launched in 2012 and counts among its directors Duwa and Madalitso Mutharika, daughter and son, respectively, of former president, the late Bingu wa Mutharika, who is brother to the incumbent.
“He probably had the backing of the President. If he does not, Mutharika should demonstrate that he does not condone such actions by firing Viola,” he said.
Mtambo said Viola having previously worked at Galaxy FM again raises conflict of interest concerns and said the presidential aide had acted as a “Galaxy FM marketing officer”.
He equated the move by Viola to recent calls by ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) secretary general Ecklen Kudomtoni for chief executives of various State-owned companies to support the party, remarks widely interpreted as a call for financial support.
Late last year, State House was embroiled in another abuse of office scandal after the First Lady Gertrude Mutharika’s charity, Beautify Malawi (Beam) Trust, was a controversial recipient of a grant from the National Aids Commission (NAC). Other recipients of the grant were Mulhako wa Alhomwe, a cultural grouping that counts the President’s family among its members, and the National Intelligence Bureau (NIB).