Malawi’s newly elected head of state is set to marry on Saturday. President Peter Mutharika will wed his longtime fiancée Gertrude Maseko, a former parliamentarian, at a private ceremony according to Peter Mukhito, co-chairman of the presidential wedding organizing committee.
The couple and some of their “well-wishers” are expected to fund the wedding, after Mutharika ordered government officials to ensure that no state funds are used to organize the nuptial ceremony.
Mukhito said foreign dignitaries, members of the diplomatic corps, friends of the couple and residents of the region Mutharika hails from have been invited to be guests at the wedding this weekend.
“The wedding would be officiated here in Blantyre and after a reception will follow at Ndata Farm,” said Mukhito. “The bill is being footed by the president himself and some well-wishers. In fact, His Excellency has directed that no government money should be used on this wedding…we have religiously followed the directive from the president that no government money should be used for the wedding.”
Mutharika, 74, is a widower with two daughters and a son. He was however accused of being gay during the run up to last month’s general election.
Mukhito rejected the accusation as baseless.
“I think those very much came from ill-minded competitors, and the truth is the president was married and that those children came from his previous marriage,” said Mukhito. “What he is trying to do is actually to formalize and set a good example bringing in the first lady for the nation. So that is exactly what the president is trying to do.”
Some analysts have hailed Mutharika’s wedding, saying this would help to smooth his social and political life as the country’s leader.
This is the second time a Malawian president is marrying while in office. The first to do so was deceased president Bingu WA Mutharika, who married Callista Chimombo, a former minister of tourism in 2010. WA Mutharika was the elder brother of current President Mutharika.
Critics argue that some amount of state funds would be used during the wedding ceremony since the state broadcaster, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation would be using state resources to cover the event. They also contend that President Mutharika will have the state’s machinery – including security – at his disposal during the wedding ceremony, which they said is still an expensive cost to the taxpayer.
But Mukhito disagreed, saying Mutharika remains the country’s president even during his private wedding.
“There is a thin line between the president and his private life. So it could be as a president there could be others that could come as normal services to the state president,” said Mukhito. “But the actual planning, the execution and the wedding itself, all the items that would be enjoyed in this wedding is directly, being financed by the president and the well-wishers.”