Voice of America (Washington, DC)

Malawi: President Weds

Malawi's new president, Peter Mutharika, has married his long-time girlfriend, former parliament member Gertrude Maseko. Mutharika lost his first wife 30 years ago, while Maseko and her first husband divorced 10 years ago.

Malawians braved cold weather on Saturday to gather outside the small church in Blantyre where the wedding ceremony took place.

Clad a in a grey suit, the 74-year-old president was the first to take the marriage vow. "I Peter Mutharika, do take thee, Gertrude Hendrina Maseko, to be my lawfully wedded wife... until God shall separate us by death.

After Maseko recited her vow, an officiating clergyman, the Reverend Rabson Chimkwezule, made the declaration. "I, the moderator of Blantyre Synod, therefore pronounce them to be the husband and the wife in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. What God has joined together, man must not separate."

The relationship between President Mutharika and Maseko dates back to 2009.

He had been serving as education minister in the former Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration, headed by his older brother, the late president Bingu wa Mutharika. During this time, Maseko, now 54 years old, was a DPP member of parliament, a position she lost during the general elections held in May.

Mutharika has long been accused of being gay despite fathering three children with his first wife. The accusation reached the boiling point in the run-up to last month's election.

After Saturday's ceremony, Mutharika said the wedding had cleared up the "mysteries." He was speaking to an estimated 6,000 villagers and dignitaries who attended a reception at his home village in the southern district of Thyolo.

Many people in Malawi have hailed the wedding, saying this would help to smooth the new president's social and political life

The outgoing European Union ambassador to Malawi, Alexander Baum, congratulated Mutharika on getting married. Baum spoke during his farewell party in the capital, Lilongwe.

"I see that his Excellency Peter Mutharika has accepted that behind every successful man there must be a woman," he said.

The chairperson for the committee that organized the president's wedding, Vice President Saulos Chilima, said the ceremony cost about $95,000, paid for by well-wishers.

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