Great start JB but timely asset declaration necessary

The Economist has been focusing on Malawi lately. So far I have seen three articles in three weeks, namely: The Good Friday Coup That Wasn’t, A Second Female Leader in Africa, and, this week, Rejoice, It’s Joyce. In all the articles, the corruption of the deceased Mr Bingu wa Mutharika, erstwhile President of Malawi, and his henchmen, is mentioned repeatedly, including the ex-President’s sudden accumulation of wealth.

Of course the articles primarily celebrate the ascendancy of Her Excellency Mrs Joyce Banda to the presidency, with all the attendant hopes she is carrying for this nation on her shoulders.

All this points to one thing: whatever is happening here, on our soil, the world is watching, ready to applaud every right step made, and to rebuke when things start going awry. So far the international community is impressed. In Rejoice, It’s Joyce for instance, here is what has been said: ‘Mrs Banda has started well. She has fired Mr Mutharika’s powerful police chief, blamed by some for the deaths of 20 anti-government demonstrators at the hands of police last July. The central bank’s governor and the head of the state broadcasting company have also been sacked.’

President Banda

Continues the article: ‘She has resumed talks with the IMF over a new loan, pledged to devalue the currency by 40%, agreed to resume full diplomatic relations with Britain, Malawi’s biggest donor and former colonial ruler, and ordered an official inquiry into the suspicious suicide of a student pro-democracy activist.

She has appointed a government that includes representatives of all the main opposition parties as well as members of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). To the dismay of some civil-rights people, many of whom suffered sorely under her predecessor, she has called for reconciliation.’

The article concludes with a warning: ‘Zambia and South Africa have donated fuel. But this will tide the country over for only a month or so. Western donors may now resume budget support, but cash is unlikely to arrive much before the end of the year. Meanwhile, Malawians may grow impatient as queues lengthen at petrol stations . . . Mrs Banda has a mountain to climb.’

Well done to President Joyce Banda for starting on such a strong note. There are many more positives The Economist has not mentioned. Mrs Banda has become the first president to tell her cabinet ministers not to waste time praising her but to tell her the truth; not to preoccupy
themselves with backbiting or feeding the President lies about each other instead of working hard as a team to develop the nation.

There are strong indicators that the state radio stations and the television are opening up to accommodate opinions from across the political divide. Mrs Banda appears determined to change the presidency. Most of the former leaders, on the contrary, were changed by the presidency, throwing away all the principles they stood for before assuming office. Any Malawian of goodwill should be proud of the direction this country is taking. The President and her government need our continuous support.

One area, however, might need to be addressed a little more urgently to enhance transparency and accountability. The declaration of assets by the President and cabinet ministers should not be shelved for too long. The earlier the assets are declared, the better. We would all be happy to sustain the momentum of change, wouldn’t we? The declaration of assets would go a long way to assure a public whose resources have long been plundered by its leaders that this time things are going to be different. Keep the fire of hope burning!

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