And the Lord God said, it is not good that the man should be alone. I will make a helper (one who balances him—a counterpart who is) suitable and complementary for him.”—Genesis 2:18
While it is true of every sovereign nation, all eyes are always set on the Head of State but a strong second look is inherently always at the spouse of the ruler, officially known as First Lady.
Of the six presidents that have ruled Malawi, the country has had six first ladies, one First Gentleman, and one Official Hostess. Just three merit nuggets of these eminent Malawians would make great revelations, great fodder in the history books of the 57-year-old nation of Malawi.
Although Malawians regrettably give scant attention and sometimes even belittle these precious members of the ruling elite, the Constitution has never even felt it necessary to include a stipend or budget for this important office. The contributions and services of the seven eminent Malawian women and one man, is enormous and worthy of pause for uplifting and honors bestowed.
- Cecilia Tamanda Kadzamira from Dedza, served as a private nurse to former president Dr. Kamuzu Banda; she was then named simply called his secretary. However, her role was rebranded, and she became Official Hostess in 1971. This was a civil service position from which she drew a well-deserved salary. She was employed in President Banda’s office from 1964-1994, and arguably the most powerful woman and one of three very powerful people in Malawi over Banda’s 31-year rule as Life president.
- Ann Chidzira Muluzi from Lilongwe was the first to be called First Lady in Malawi when Bakili Muluzi emerged victorious in the 1994 multi-party presidential election. However, the couple divorced in 1999 and she migrated to the United States.
- Patricia Shanil Muluzi from Balaka was the second First Lady of Malawi. She married Muluzi in 1987, and upon his ascent to the office of President, he placed her at Zomba State House. When he and First Lady Anne Muluzi divorced, President Muluzi and Shanil Muluzi held a first lavish ‘palace’ wedding in Malawi. She was First Lady from 1999 to 2004. The couple later divorced in 2011.
- Ethel Zyauya Mutharika was wife to the late Bingu. She was First Lady from 2004 until she succumbed to cancer in 2007. She was a quiet, gentle person. Her charity Ethel Mutharika Foundation left a mark in Malawi.
- Callista Mutharika married Bingu in 2010 and served as First Lady until 2012 when Mutharika died suddenly due to cardiac arrest. Before marrying Bingu in a second sumptuous palace wedding, Callista served as a member of Parliament (MP) and minister of Tourism. She was first First Lady to be placed on Cabinet list.
- Chief Justice Richard Banda, Retired, from Nkhata Bay is husband to former president Joyce Banda. He is Malawi’s first and sole First Gentleman. He led an illustrious career in the Judiciary becoming Malawi’s first black Chief Justice to serve as Minister and Attorney General. He was First Gentleman from April 2012 to June 2014.
- Gertrude Maseko Mutharika from Balaka was an MP from 2009-2014. When Bingu’s brother, Arthur Peter Mutharika became president in 2014, he married Gertrude. Theirs was the third and modest palace wedding. She was First Lady from June 2014 to June 2020.
- Monica Chakwera from Rumphi is the current First Lady. She is a chartered accountant and ascended to this position when Malawians voted for Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera as Malawi’s sixth president in the court-sanctioned June 23 fresh presidential election.