Friday Jumbe for Malawi presidency: A book must not be judged by its cover

Friday Jumbe is one of the most interesting Malawian politicians vying for the country’s presidency in the May 20 tripartite elections, Nyasa Times’ Special Projects & Supplements Editor Pius Nyondo delves more into the life of Friday Anderson Jumbe – the man.

Jumbe a personality tainted with everything that would make an upright politician wobble down to nothing. He has, time and again, been branded a clueless politician; and as if that is not enough, he has been implicated – not just once – but in many high profile fraud scams.

But even after all the bustles and hustles in his political life, Jumbe is – surprisingly – up.Briefing by the Unied Nations Information Service ( UNIS ).

After being away from the Malawi parliament and cabinet for such a long time, Jumbe wants to become Malawi’s leader after May 20.

Ironically, he preaches fiscal discipline, and is very convincing about what he says – a Malawian politician whose name is synonymous with alleged corruption.

“Malawi is a failed state because of corruption,” he once told Nyasa Times. “Our economy is in reverse. There is no proper order and corruption is rampant. You can’t access government services without buying your way there. Corruption has been institutionalized.”

Educational Background

 Jumbe is one of the finest economists to have ever graduated from Malawi’s Chancellor College. He graduated in 1977 with Bachelors in Science (Bsc) Economics.

He has been with ADMARC and the Ministry of Finance as director and Finance Minister respectively.

Subsidy Programme, Liquor sachets

 Once director of the Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC), Jumbe has persistently criticised the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP), saying it has failed to benefit the impoverished because of graft.

“We need to reverse the subsidy programme as it is riddled with corruption. It has failed because it has been politicized. There are a few fat cats. It is a complete failure of policy,” he argues.

On the cheap liquor sachets, Jumbe calls for a total ban.

“It is high time government took a bold step to ban these sachets to protect our children from alcohol abuse. Interestingly, the distillers, mostly Asians don’t allow their children to consume such highly potent beer,” he told Nyasa Times in January.

He added: “We have given them (distillers) unwarranted leniency; there should be no sachets for the betterment of Malawi.”

Strength

 During the presidential debate in April this year, Jumbe’s best strength was his ability – possible for an experienced economist – “to attach numbers to his proposals and where he would get money to finance them.”

“While everyone was embracing university subsidies, it was only Jumbe who said he would make  fertilizer prices at the flat rate of K5 000 (US$12) from the current K17 000 (US$40) so that everyone can buy not just some targeted farmers,” wrote Ephraim Munthali in The Nation.

Added Munthali: “But his proposal to use existing secondary schools to train 4 000 additional teachers to diploma level may not be realistic given that the infrastructure  in secondary schools is already inadequate and substandard; hence, to bring in college education at such venues  would be a tall order.

“In terms of body language, Jumbe looked and sounded as though he would rather be somewhere else and some of his responses were delivered too casually.”

Courage

 Jumbe out-rightly challenged Atupele Muluzi – son to former Malawi leader Bakili Muluzi – for the party’s top seat at the most recent United Democratic Front (UDF) indaba.

Indisputably, it can be mentioned here that Jumbe is one of the type that Malawi needs. Much as he knew that Atupele was one of the most important people in UDF, he came out to oppose the coming in of Atupele Muluzi as president of the party.

Surely, national parties must not be treated as some people’s party estates.

Of course, Jumbe did not make it during the Indaba. But he relentlessly did not want to turn back, and co-founded the New Labour Party (NLP) – which he is going to represent in the May 20 elections.

His running mate is Joseph Kubwalo – another ex-UDF member who refused to accept Atupele’s victory.

So, Jumbe is courageous. He is determined to challenge, even the giver of his bread and butter, for the truth.

Controversy

 Jumbe has not been short of controversy.

At the inception of late Bingu wa Mutharika’s leadership – who died of cardiac arrest on April 5, 2012 – Jumbe was implicated in a corruption scam involving the construction of his Superior Hotel which he owns in Malawi’s commercial capital of Blantyre.

Jumbe for many months was one of the most detested politicians – as far as Malawian voters were concerned – in the 2009 elections.

Conclusion

 It is not good to judge a book by its cover. Jumbe has something positive to contribute to the national development.

As Nyasa Times always puts it, it is Malawians’ choice.

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