Thursday, June 14, 2007


In Malawi , the local cross between Mother Theresa and Princess Diana , the First Lady of the president of the country has passed away .

Ethel Mutharika died last week and the government quickly declared a month of official mourning mounting a multimillion-dollar memorial roadshow that critics say is a political ploy by her embattled husband, President Bingu wa Mutharika.
The government's memorial plans have grown into what many regard as an extravaganza at odds with Malawi's status as one of the poorest countries in the world.

A South African jet has been hired to fly Ethel Mutharika's body around the country so it can be put on view for mourners in the country's three major cities. Workers are busy paving a new road to the president's rural farm, which will be the site of a new tomb for the first lady which planners say has been designed to last for 200 years. The farm itself is being refurbished for what officials expect will be an influx of dignitaries ahead of the formal burial on Saturday.

Special commemorative cloth, similar to that used in many African political campaigns but this time bearing Mutharika's portrait, has been distributed for free. Most government offices are closed, auctions for the country's main export earner, tobacco, have been postponed .

The Cost ?

Sources in Treasury told Reuters the cost is running over at more than 2 billion kwacha , that is over US$10 million .

In Malawi , 65 % of the people live below the world poverty line of $1 per day.

Why ?

"The president is getting a lot of sympathy and he is using this to garner more support, especially in the regions where he is not as popular," said a senior member of the United Democratic Front which wa Mutharika abandoned after he won the presidency on its ticket in 2004.

Another senior UDF member told Reuters the president's new popularity makes it difficult for the party to oppose him.

Some politicians will dance on graves for votes and power , even on their own late wife's .

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