Malawi: Joyce Banda and her 'accidental presidency' mania

The sudden demise of President Bingu wa Mutharika caught a lot of people off guard. It completely annihilated the vigour, the morale, and the hope, particularly in those who, through the late President, basked in glory of absolute opulence. For those who always bit the middle finger, it was time to join the euphoria that had hoped for the quickest socio-economic recovery with President Joyce Banda as the trusted messiah. But after about eight months of self praise, insensitive public spending, and ever growing executive arrogance, it looks certain that Malawians need to armour themselves more against real socio-economic deprivation ahead of 2014, if not for the rest of their lives.
The majority of Malawians will agree that President Banda lacks clear policy direction. In other words, the President vastly appears to fall short of authentic commitment to deliver Malawi from the recurring socioeconomic evil, which she has continually and shamelessly disassociated herself from. Interestingly though, she has often and openly acknowledged her ‘irresponsible’ stance and has, on several occasions, impertinently told the ever patient nation that although she served as the country’s Vice President in hibernation, she never prepared herself for the top job as her presidency came as an absolute surprise, that Christmas gift one never expects from a foe.

President Banda

For a moment, let us suppose that Malawi’s constitutional order tallied with that of Zimbabwe or Kenya. Could Prime Ministers Morgan Tsvangirai or Raila Odinga, upon the death of their fierce adversaries, Presidents Robert Mugabe and Mwai Kibaki respectively, make a hackneyed insinuation that their ascendancy to the top seat was a mere fluke? Would the Prime Ministers not lock themselves in a dark cubicle to thank the Almighty for gifting them the unexpected? Which among these overzealous presidential aspirants, just as Joyce Banda was, would ever waste over eight months playing rhetorically senseless politics rather than working hard to democratically cement their grip on power?
The President is completely deluded when she keeps blaming the soul of President Mutharika on a political podium over the continued socioeconomic crisis. Yes, Malawians still remember and will never forget the long fuel queues that could last for days and weeks. But where is the beauty of having shorter fuel queues when the majority of consumers can barely afford 10 litres of petrol due to daily price increase? Where is the beauty of having an improved electricity supply, for example, when most of its consumers pay huge bills, sometimes even more than the salary they earn? Where, for Jesus’ sake, are the beauty and the sanity in the President’s apparently incessant celebration of Mutharika passing when inflation continues to pierce the skies? Is there, really, any beauty to go for two years with a leader who lacks policy direction but is ever loquacious about petty things?
President Banda must surely realize that there is no way she can endlessly tell the nation that she is doing two bonus years to her imaginary ten years of presidency from 2014. While she may mistakenly think that saying so is a mere joke in a bid to stoke the morale, hope, and trust she thinks people owe her, she must remember that this nation is not a chicken farm taming hybrid hens and roosters. In the years when most citizens stopped to daydream because of the presence of formal and high education as well as the CNN effect which has exposed the nation to world trends including the need for national leaders to simply be serious, it is an error of the highest order for the President to mistake her subjects’ patience and understanding for docility. Hence, Amayi must just get serious and get the business done as expected by every Malawian rather than trying to make people believe that her apparent failure to demonstrate leadership capability results from her sudden assumption of power. As a Vice President before April 2012, she must have surely had her own leadership policies, especially given that she parted ways with President Mutharika barely months into the Presidential term and more importantly, she was well aware that it was her to assume the Presidency if Mutharika died or became incapacitated.
The imprecision of President Banda’s political behaviour has been apparent in many ways. Cognizant of the contentiousness of her incessant countrywide food distribution trips, for example, it is never trite to argue that there is no true good reason for the President’s unnecessary public spending, especially when one considers that the cost of the food items is far much less than the cost of the trips alone. Similarly, it makes no sense for the President to leave office on almost a daily basis given the seriousness of her office which requires the holder to pay strict attention to government business.
Moreover, most of her speeches during the trips, apart from that they are simply more of stories than facts, are completely superfluous as she tells Malawians almost the same things every time she travels, chief of which includes the DPP government’s failure. Her lack of decisiveness in this regard has attracted popular derision and has worn down the respect several Malawians reserved for her back in April this year. Just fancy one Facebook subscriber wrting: Ndikupita kumudzi kukapereka nkhuku 10 zamikolongwe, ndikufunanso amayi akakhelepo (I am going to visit my relatives at the village and will give them 10 hybrid chickens. I will need the presence of the President at the giving ‘ceremony’). This erodes the President’s public image vis-à-vis her expected commitment to lead the nation out of the socioeconomic wilderness.
Similarly, President Banda’s supersonic speed in ‘winning back’ donor confidence has not been reflective of a good foreign policy, that which seeks to maximize the attainment of national interests, which the President has simply reduced to donor money. Since assuming power, the President has demonstrated her inclination towards the West in the same way a village kid would say ‘give me 1 tambala’ to a European backpacker.
In the first place, it is never necessary for the President to make a public revelation that she is a beggar because this is tantamount to being a clueless father who assembles the entire family to tell them that their life hinges on alms. The President must realize that the West shall always rejoice in her apparent indecisiveness. It is, therefore, important that the President comes out of the excitement of being the President by chance and stands firm in her Pro-Western foreign policy decisions and choices to avoid being dangled anyhow like a rat held by its tail.
Before here rise to power, the President was well loved and admired by many because they literally suffered with her during her public victimization by the Mutharika regime. She in turn appeared to have stood in people’s shoes and promised them, not bags of maize flour, but complete socio-economic emancipation. With the current torrent of criticisms from various quarters of the citizenry, the President must, in no way, hate the rising ‘kingdom of gossipers’ because whether she likes it or not people will always talk about those who assume high positions and use them to victimize others for no unfounded reasons at all.
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