The country’s President Peter Mutharika is reportedly had his luggage missing on the way to Malta for the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (Chogm) which political analysts have questioned the news’ legibility with the aim seeking public sympathy for the purchase of the Presidential Jet.
The development comes barely a month after President Mutharika faced accusation from the general public for taking large entourage to the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), New York in the USA which tax-payers money were spent while public hospitals were languishing with insufficient of funding.
The social media this week was a washed with stories and photos showing President Mutharika standing and waiting for hours in Johannesburg, South Africa to get a board pass connecting a flight to Valetta in Malta where his language also got stuck only arrived on Wednesday, November 25 evening after his departure from Lilongwe.
The Weekend Nation of November 28, 2015 quoted Collins Magalasi, Presidential Chief Advisor on economic affairs confirming the missing of the Mutharika luggage while blaming the choice of using commercial airlines (attributed to the whole hitches) instead of chartered or presidential jet.
Magalasi concede though that presidential jet was costly investment for the Malawi with the current economic turmoil, submitted a bad image President Mutharika portrayed upon missing of his luggage and waiting hours on airport the time could have spent working in office.
“It’s true that some of his luggage did not arrive until Wednesday evening. On commercial flights, there is only so much hand luggage the aids can carry and some of it’s checked in. People should look at this situation as more than a saving to the government’s coffers. It costs money each time the President is connecting at an airport because he has to be accorded VIP treatment and security during the wait. Sometimes, we have to ask ourselves, what sort of risks are we subjecting our President and our nation to?
“Wherever the President has a layover, embassy officials are supposed to lay the ground work for the hours in which he would be in a particular country. In the case of Dubai, embassy officials travelled from Kuwait where Malawi has an embassy to make VIP and security arrangement while in Rome. When such things happen, it’s difficult to quantify the savings to the government.
“A trip that could have taken even hours if a plane was chartered took 27 hours. During these wasted hours, he could have done a lot of work back home. People should understand that it’s not about him as President Arthur Peter Mutharika but the government systems which will exist even when he is out of office”, concerned Magalasi.
Lytton Nkata, an ex-protocol officer in the department of protocol, Ministry of Foreign Affairs however differed with Magalasi attributing the President incident to the usage of commercial flight saying the challenge was on serious glitches in the VVIP protocol arrangements.
“These failures had nothing to do with the fact that he travelled commercial. I am also compelled to conclude that the glitches were compounded by the fact Malawi has no Embassies in Rome and Valletta as the Presidential guard command is responsible for the President’s luggage when is travelling abroad, using commercial flights.
“Normally, the Presidential guard command assigns one of the senior Presidential guards, in most cases the deputy guard commander, if he is part of the delegation, to check in and claim the President’s luggage upon arrival as there are no special arrangements regarding the handling or the transportation of luggage.
“It’s my opinion that taking into account the fact that luggage can be lost or may arrive late, the State House advance party should always carry additional personal effects for the President, just in case something happens to the luggage that is conveyed with him. This should have been standard operating procedure by now as the former President Bakili Muluzi had similar experience, so the system should have learnt some lessons”, elaborates Nkata.
But Chancellor College political scientist Joseph Chunga feared the President Mutharika’s flight hassles could be a staged act from State House and government to seek public sympathy that there was a need for the purchase of the Presidential Jet swaying analytical the nation from critiquing the Presidency dealings in the current economic challenges the Malawi was in.
“We still question the authenticity of the news that President’s luggage was missing considering that its coming barely a few weeks after the President was criticized for taking large entourage to UNGA.
Assuming that the reports are true, I don’t think there is anything strange for the President to get his luggage late or indeed lose it altogether. I shoulder to believe that this should be a basis to justify the chartering of private jets or buying one for the President”, argue Chunga.
The State House appetite to purchase a presidential jet surfaced when the embattled Presidential Secretary Gerald Viola disclosed that Mutharika was contemplating to have one plane once the country’s economy improves the sentiments which the general public slurs at government and later prompted Minister of Information Jappie Mhango disowning Viola’s suggestions.
President Peter Mutharika was in Malta attending the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting (Chogm) and expects to leave Malta on Sunday, November 29, for London to attend the Global African Summit before connecting to South Africa for Forum of China Africa Cooperation later next week.
In 2013, the former President Joyce Banda controversially bartered off the Presidential Jet amounting to US$ 19 million to African’s largest private owned defense and aero plane company, Paramount Group which the late Bingu WA Mutharika bought in 2009.