Vice-President Saulos Chilima on Tuesday stunned Malawians living in the United States of America (USA) when he refused to meet them at Marriot Wardman Hotel whose conference room was pegged at $10 000 (about K5.7 million).
A source told The Nation this week the Malawians in Washington DC and surrounding areas wanted to engage the Vice-President on a number of issues, including progress of the public service reforms.
The source said the group booked the conference room at Marriot Hotel, but Malawi Government was expected to foot the bill.
However, the source, who was part of the organising team, said the Office of the Vice-President ordered a cancellation of the conference room booking upon learning that government through the Malawi Embassy in Washington DC was going to foot the bill.
Instead, the Vice-President offered that they use a free albeit small room at the Malawi Embassy.
Pilirani Phiri, press officer in the Office of the Vice-President who is also on the trip, confirmed the development in a WhatsApp response, saying Chilima held the view that organisers of the meeting, Malawians in Washington DC, should have paid for the venue or identify a free venue elsewhere.
He said: “In this case, the VP said he would go to the embassy and have the meeting. And this happened. So, the most important thing is that a fruitful meeting took place at the embassy where no expenses were incurred.”
Speaking during the meeting, Malawi’s Ambassador to the USA Necton Mhura told the people at the meeting that the venue was changed because Chilima refused to have the interface at a hotel where resources would have been spent.
“I am impressed and encouraged that back home there is a leadership that is doing things from a business-unusual perspective,” he said, attracting applause from the 30-plus Malawians at the event.
In a speech whose excerpts were made available to The Nation, Chilima commended Malawians in the US for investing in Malawi and that they should also actively participate in national development back home.
He said: “It is not necessarily the size of the investment, but the impact it makes in improving the quality of life of ordinary people that matters and I want you to know that the Malawi Government appreciates your efforts.”
Chilima also gave a progress report on reforms whose commission he chairs, stressing that unless Malawians reform as a people and as a country, they should forget about development.
The Vice-President is in the USA for the launch of the Leadership Council of Compact 2025, a global initiative to end hunger and malnutrition by the year 2025.
The council comprises several members, including Prime Minister of Ethiopia and European Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development. n