Mystery surrounds the whereabouts of Bingu Silver Grey Foundation, and over K200 million the Foundation allegedly received as donations towards the poor, at a time its founder and patron Bingu wa Mutharika, deceased, was in power.
The Foundation has been conspicuously missing, especially when Malawi joins the world in observing the International Day of Older Persons every October, unlike in the previous years when the Foundation’s activities would dominate the airwaves.
We tracked down the then chairperson of the Foundation’s fundraising committee, Kelvin Mmangisa, who painted a somber picture of the Foundation.
“I have not been called by anyone to say let us do this or that, so talk to the family of the late president,” said Mmangisa in a Wednesday phone interview.
Late Mutharika’s widow, Callista, on her part, said she is saddened that the Foundation is in limbo but said there is nothing she can do to revamp it despite strongly wanting to.
“The Silver Grey Foundationis now under the Bineth Trust and I am not involved. I am not even a trustee of the trust. I need to discuss with the family on the way forward,” she said in a phone interview on Wednesday.
She said she and her late husband were passionate about the elderly. She expressed hope, saying “sometimes you have to let time pass.”
But a source told us that there have been efforts by other people to continue the Foundation but the Mutharika family has not been eager.
A former senior employee of the Foundation said that it raised over K200 million in donations and by the time Bingu died the Foundation had spent just a few millions as donations to Malawi Council for the Handicapped, hospitals and on a few old people that required medical aid, leaving the rest of the money in the Foundation’s account whose signatory was Bingu wa Mutharika himself.
Asked if he feels bad that the money he helped collect might end up not helping the old, Mmangisa said his conscience is clean because he is not the reason the funds never trickled to the elderly.
In 2013 government sounded the alarm bells and wanted to turn Bineth Trust into a public trust, saying the fallen president’s children were abusing the trust, withdrawing huge troves of cash and spending it on things not in tandem with a charitable trust.
Government made its arguments in an affidavit that was filed by the then Attorney General Anthony Kamanga in the High Court Commercial Division in Lilongwe.
According to the affidavit, Mutharika’s children are Bineth Trust administrators.
The second summons in support of the original summons quoted a Felix Nayeja, listed as Assistant Superintendent at Fiscal Police, as saying during Fiscal Police investigations into the wealth of the late Mutharika, police uncovered “huge and unaccounted fund transactions” at Bineth Trust’s Standard Bank account.
“The recipients of the money listed under the paragraphs above were neither trustees nor beneficiaries of the Bineth Trust,” states the affidavit after listing amounts of money withdrawn and the accounts it was deposited into.
Mutharika’s family, at that time, cried foul over government’s attempt to turn the former president’s Trust into a public entity. The late Mutharika’s daughter Duwa told The Daily Times then that the family felt government was targeting it for victimisation.
“We feel the family is being dragged into political warfare which is affecting the innocent children and grandchildren of the late president Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika.
“The family asks to be left alone and not treated like public enemy number one. We do not influence policy or hold any titles of higher office,” said Duwa.
As it stands, money that people donated to the elderly, if the trust does not resume its work, will have gone into personal pockets.
We tried to ask after the departed president’s foundation from his brother and incumbent President, his spokesperson Gerald Viola referred the issue to Tapiwa Mutharika who is reported to be the chair of Foundation.
We could not reach Tapiwa Mutharika, but managed to reach Madaliso Mutharika, eldest son of the late president, who could not give us Tapiwa’s contact details but reported that he had delivered the message we sent through him to Tapiwa.
As we went to press Tapiwa had not contacted us.
Human Rights activist Billy Mayaya did not sound too happy at the news and said the “so-called charities” have no transparency.
“These things should be run as public trusts not personal property and we need to demand such. And we need a full audit, not just a normal audit but a forensic one. We need to know who donated, how much and how that money was used,” said Mayaya in a Thursday evening phone interview.
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