Malawi to spend millions to put 'Dr' on President Banda's portraits

Malawi President Joyce Banda.  FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Malawi government will from this month start printing new portraits for President Joyce Banda to accommodate her new doctorate title, a move which would cost the struggling country millions of money.

Jeonju University of South Korea awarded Mrs Banda an honorary doctorate degree following her continuing efforts to turn around the Malawi economy that was in the doldrums when she took over in April 2012.

The initial portrait of Banda has a 'Mrs' on its title, however, with the new accolade, the government intends to replace thousands of portraits with those bearing the new title of 'Dr'.

But Information minister Moses Kunkuyu disputed that extra expenses would be incurred and said it was important that the President's new title be featured on the portrait as it was an honour to all Malawians.

"We are not going to incur additional costs as we print the President's portrait every three months. Our next chunk was suppose to be printed starting this month and we are going to add the new title," he said.

However, the minister could not justify why the country prints the President's portrait every three months only saying: "The portraits are printed on demand basis."

Presidential portraits have been a thorny issue in Malawi. Former President late Bingu wa Mutharika also spent millions of Kwacha to change his portrait bearing the title 'Dr' to accommodate 'professor' soon after a Chinese University recognised him.

Despite the Malawi government's intention to spend millions on portraits, it has been going to donors with a begging bowl to meet obligations, including the purchase of essential drugs that are currently scarce in all hospitals in Malawi.

President Banda justified the acceptance of the honorary doctorate degree award saying the awarding university had agreed to offer scholarships to Malawians to study medicine in South Korea.

Malawi Presidents normally play up honorary titles. Of the country's four leaders so far, only Dr Hastings Kamuzu Banda was awarded a doctorate degree academically.

The country's second President, Dr Bakili Muluzi, had an honorary doctorate attached to his official title while the late Professor wa Mutharika had his honorary professorship awarded in China.

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