Joyce Banda and Abida Mia (from left) during fundraiser for Tonse
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10-11
Let us face a few facts, former Malawi President Dr. Joyce H. Banda did not join politics and then gain prominence; as an advocate, she had risen to international, regional, and national prominence that joining politic became the obvious “What next(?)”question in her career path. Another fact is that coming from the non-governmental sector, JB, as she is popularly called by friends and foes, got things done. She equally expected those around her to get things done on their part. In the brief interlude Malawi had with its first female president, facts must be faced that JB accomplished a lot more than any other leader before or after her in ten or six years.
There are others who would think otherwise and have continued to paint a less than flattering picture of Malawi’s and SADC’s first female president, Africa’s second. Unknown information providers have tried to stick to her name that the former President was involved in the multi-million-kwacha cashgate scandal where civil servants milked the country in broad daylight. In fact former President Peter Mutharika spent the better part of his first full term in office hounding his predecessor. International auditors cleared Joyce Banda of any complicity in the cashgate affair. The only things that ties her to the unfortunate epoch in our history, are malicious, baseless lies.
One might ask what is special about Joyce Banda, and what makes her tick, or how does she manage to do what she does? Joyce Banda sailed into Malawi annals of history when Bingu saw her as the way to a landslide victory in his second term bid. The countryside turned up in large numbers amid chants of “we want Mai Joyce Banda and Bingu wa Mutharika.”
Bingu moved her from the women’s ministry and placed her in the foreign affairs ministry. This was in a bid to prevent the negotiations with China sinking into doldrums. Banda signed, sealed, and delivered; the China diplomatic relations. Such relations were filled with goodies like absorbing all the loans that Malawi had secured from Taiwan, and finishing all Taiwanese projects. But top on the list of thank-you’s from China, were the Kamuzu Banda mausoleum, Parliament Buildings, Kamuzu Highway four-way carriage, and the Nsanje Inland Port.
Filled with passion, empathy for vulnerable people, is a powerful guiding spirit for Malawi’s first female president. In all her doing, she has the poorest Malawian woman or man, child or elderly person. This is what makes Joyce Banda tick; it is what Joyce Banda brought to the State House on that fateful day in April 2012 when she sailed into a history none shall ever be able to take away from her.
Upon securely grasping the reins of power, thanks to the sterling Malawi Constitution, professional military, and wide-awake Malawians, President Banda toured African nations such as Nigeria, Liberia, Botswana, and South Africa. This was a very wise tour, a tour that secured and buttressed relationships, scooping funds and grants in the process. The interesting gift from Botswana was in the form of cattle. All Malawians who laughed at this donation, should now look at what happens when the donation is in cash. The cattle donation enabled Banda to start the cow per family donations for rural vulnerable people.
After Africa, President Banda started a globe-trotting sprint and managed in one year to be photographed with many international icons. These ranged from Queen Elizabeth II of the UK, US first black President Barack Obama; she met with other female leaders from Asia such as Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, South Korean President Park Geun-Hye. From Park, Banda secured a labor-exchange that Malawians unadvisedly talked out of existence. The exchange was to allow 200 Malawians to train and live in South Korea for two-year terms, during which time they would gain skills. A grand new way of transferring skills. Social media rants about the food habits of Koreans shot down the agreement. Today, Malawians are no richer, but poorer.
President Joyce Banda left other legacies, such as building homes for chiefs and added to the list vulnerable people. A fistula ward was added to the Bwaila Hospital, built with resources from a Scottish philanthropist Ann Gloag, and officially handed over to the Malawi government.
Like Bingu before her, Joyce Banda was a sought-after guest at many international conferences. She was given many awards. Unlike Bingu, Joyce Banda’s undoing was due to other people behaving badly. The near-death shooting incident involving former director of finance Mphwiyo rocked the boat of Banda’s last year in office. The syphoning of large sums of money from the government coffers led to Joyce Banda fleeing the taunts and threats of imprisonment by Mutharika’s administrator. Banda’s exile lasted four years. Upon being cleared by the international auditors, Banda returned to Malawi.
It has been two years since Banda returned to Malawi; Mutharika was just a loud bark, he did not imprison JB; the facts speak for themselves, JB will not be imprisoned on the charges in the cash gate matter. All that remains are the gossip and unfounded slanderous words.
Joyce Banda, first female president of Malawi is truly among the greatest presidents Malawians have known. She was honest – no drama O’mama, she wore her sleeves for all to see. She was compassionate, a virtue many Malawians took advantage of.
She was kind, compassionate, soft-spoken, and very slow to get angry.
Malawi was fortunate to have a President like Joyce H. Banda; she was compassionate, resolute, kind-hearted, forward-thinking, and a networker.