President Joyce Banda of the ruling People’s Party (PP) on Friday presented her nomination papers to the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) for the May 20 elections pledging a transformative agenda for the nation.
Banda, fondly called JB, arrived at the Comesa Hall in an open vehicle with her running mate 36-year-old Sosten Gwengwe (Minister of Trade) waving at people. The vehicle was beautifully decorated in orange party cloth .
Nyasa Times correspondents in Blantyre said the President was cheered all the way by thousands of PP supporters clad in the party’s cloth of orange and delayed her time of presentation of papers as her convoy was forced to move on a snail’s pace in the Masauko Chipembere Highway .
After being presented with certificate of candidacy, President Banda addressed the audience in a speech monitored live private owned Zodiak Broadcasting Service which was also streaming online.
JB said she was presenting herself and Gwengwe before the people of Malawi “as our employers to seek our own full term and mandate to lead this country.”
Banda said she was seeking election to the office of the Presidency “with great joy knowing that our country is much better now than when I took over two years ago. “
The 63-year-old Malawi’s first female president is seeking her own full mandate after assuming power by accident of fate after President Bingu WA Mutharika suddenly died from cardiac arrest complications in April 2012. She was Mutharika’s Vice-President.
Banda was expelled from Mutharilka’s DPP over a fall out of succession plan and she founded her own PP which became the de facto ruling party following her constitutional ascendancy to power after her estranged boss’ death.
When she became Head of State, Banda embraced an ailing economic following aid cuts over governance concerns. The country was on the verge of collapse with people sleeping on pump stations and shortage of foreign currency.
But speaking on Friday, President Banda said within two years the economy has recovered and would push for its growth beyond May 20.
“Our people are no longer desperate for foreign exchange, fuel and other social services. Our economy is posed for sustainable growth,” said President Banda clad in orange attire.
“Indeed, a very reputable international audit firm, Earnst and Young has predicted that Malawi is one of the top five fastest growing economies in Africa in the next five years. I hope that we Malawians feel the same,” she added.
JB also touted herself on democracy and governance credentials unlike when her predecessor was in power which forced Malawians to seek people-power on the streets on July 20, 2011 anti-government demonstration expressing disapproval of the late Mutharika’s rule.
She also committed her government to ensure elections are credible.
“Our democratic governance is open, tolerant and based on rule of law and respect for civil liberties. As we know, the previous elections were held in an environment of violence, fear and intimidation. This is not the case now,” she said.
JB said since taking over power, she has worked hard towards building an inclusive, participatory and equitable society.
“I have shown that it is possible to develop Malawi,” she pointed out.
Banda said her two years as Head of State were “a transit lounge” that prepared the PP torch bearer for her own full term and mandate.
“I want to assure all Malawians that as President of this country, I will ensure that we have peaceful, free and fair elections. Our Police Service and all security agencies are on guard to make sure that we have an electoral process according to law,” she said.
Banda said after 50 years of independence which the country will commemorate on July 6, she was pledging a transformational agenda for the southern African nation.
“For the two years I have been President, I have come to the conclusion that our country requires a transformational agenda that can enable all Malawians to step up and step out of basic existence.
“For the past 50 years, Malawians have been continuously worried about basic survival, with the central agenda being food security but still the majority of our people live in abject poverty,” she said.
JB said her transformational agenda is for Malawians to reject impoverishment.
“The key principal feature of our transformational agenda is to care for and empower vulnerable segments of our population. Therefore, we will continue with social protection programmes including MASAF IV; Public Works Programme, Housing Scheme, Farm Input Subsidy Programme, Farm Input Loan Programme, A Cow A Family Programme, Food Distribution and Cash Transfer Programmes.,” said Banda.
“These programmes are not meant to be hand outs but an empowerment foundation for our rural masses to begin a journey to transformation,” she clarified.
“In the health sector, we have seen that it is possible to reduce maternal mortality, mother to child HIV/AIDS transmission and register significant malaria control. Hence, I am putting before our people a transformational agenda that seeks to modernize our rural areas, overcome poverty and take Malawi into the middle income economy,” she said.
The President said in her transformative agenda, the PP are committed to spearheading institutional and structural reforms of the agricultural sector which will provide a solid foundation for dramatic and irreversible change in the sector.
“We must reject that a hoe should be the agricultural implement of choice. We need to diversify, mechanise, commercialise our agriculture; add value to our produce and promote proper storage facilities and research services in order to achieve food security and spur economic growth. “
She noted that the past two years, her Government has registered better tobacco prices and we will ensure that tobacco farmers continue to get even better prices.
“This transformational agenda is saying that we must reject that our people should drink unclean water from unprotected wells.
“We must reject the poor quality of education in our schools. We must reject the small number of students being selected into Universities each year. We need to broaden access to and improve quality of education at all levels. We need to refocus vocational and technical training for economic growth and job creation for our youth who constitute the majority of our population. We need to make education for the girl child a key component of our education system.”
Said Banda: “Yes, we must reject poverty, unemployment, homelessness, hunger, and underdevelopment prevalent in our country and move to transform our country in a sustained and focused manner.”
Banda promised to get young people decent jobs and get women and men out of poverty, deprivation and underdevelopment.
“This is a call to get food for the hungry, to eradicate preventable diseases, to let people find their voice, and restore their dignity.”
She concluded: “I take pride in presenting to you a man and a woman as a team (JB and Gwengwe) and also a woman and a youth as a team.”
The President told supporters she was going to hold a mass rally later at Njamba Freedom Park.
The official campaign for the May 20 election starts on March 21.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :