Malawi: From North Malawi - Can Monica Chakwera Save the First Lady Title

A wife to a President is supposed to be what she is: a wife; nothing more.

This, of course, should be the case because, during elections, presidential candidates appear on the ballot paper with their running mates, not spouses.

To mean, spouses--either wives or husbands, are not, legally, part of the presidency. The presidency involves the President and their vice.

Over the past decades--especially when wives of the presidents, trading as First Ladies, started to appear on the scene in 1994--there has been debate regarding their role in shaping and influencing their husband's style of governance.

Of course, there wasn't much talk when Malawi's first, First Lady, Annie Muluzi, and her subsequent, Patricia Shanil Muluzi, were at the State House.

They both managed the Freedom Foundation Trust.

It must be underlined that the two kept quite a low profile figure--always shying away from being on the frontlines.

In fact, even when Bingu wa Mutharika's first wife, Ethel, occupied the State House until her demise in 2007, her display--just like the previous two, was more motherly, choosing the background than being on the frontlines.

However, much of the public interest in the role of First Ladies in shaping and influencing their spouses' style of governance hit the spotlight when Callista Chimombo married Bingu wa Mutharika in 2012.

For the first time in the history of First Ladies, Malawians were shocked to see a First Lady go wild spitting vitriol in public, attacking anyone deemed to be political agitators of the Head of State. Callista even called the civil society organisations to 'go to hell."

Further, Malawians started reading headlines about huge sum of money from State agencies being channeled to finance unexplained charities ventures run by First Ladies.

With Callista, the office of the First Lady had taken a wrong turn.

The coming in of Getrude Maseko, former President Peter Mutharika's wife, didn't helped matters at all. In fact, it only deepened the calls for Malawi to consider regulating the office of the First Lady.

Unlike the loud Callista, Gertrude was quite. However, through her Beautify Malawi initiative, tongues wagged regarding alleged billions coming to her fold--all unaccounted for.

She also made headlines for becoming an overnight billionaire, with a strange accumulation of several unexplained properties in the country, yet she doesn't have a job.

Arguably, Callista and Getrude have transformed the office of the First Lady from that motherly perception, as displayed by the first three First Ladies, to an avenue of political arrogance, corruption and primitive accumulation.

This is the office that Madame Monica Chakwera, Malawi's first, First Lady from the North, inherits. She has inherited an office with a complete damaged reputation.

The question is: Which route with the new First Lady take? Will she, like the first three First Ladies, play the background role? Or, like the two previous ladies, go on the political frontlines to use the office for self-enrichment?

For the little we know about Madame Chakwera is that she is from Mwazisi in Rumphi; nothing much more than that--apart from, once, being mayi busa [wife to church leader when Chakwera was heading Malawi Assemblies of God].

From the little than we know, against a background of being a wife to a person who has, for years, been a public figure, it wouldn't be an understatement to speculate that she is a low key woman.

In the eventual days as we begin to know her better, the only advice we can give her is to learn from the best and the worst examples of her predecessors. She has a choice to build or destroy her husband.

More From: Nyasa Times

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