When current Malawi President Joyce Banda, then Vice President, ascended to power after the sudden death of Bingu wa Mutharika, many thought that Malawi would breath fresh air. This was especially so after wrangles between Mutharika, Banda and the international community paralyzed the economy of Malawi.
Mutharika was at loggerhead with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank after refusing to devalue Malawi’s Kwacha. The whole kerfuffle started after Mutharika purchased a presidential jet which now Banda wants to sell.
When Banda took over, she devalued the Kwacha and got closer to the common citizenry to entice and please the donors who resumed aid and loans to Malawi. Banda went a mile ahead to soften stand on homosexuality in Malawi. Ironically, she thought that this is what Malawians needed most. She was quoted saying, “Indecency and unnatural acts laws shall be repealed.” Such steps made Banda a heroine overnight in the West. Again, politics is a dirty game and those playing it are likely to be dirtier than the game itself.
Many Malawians believed that Banda would transform Malawi for the better. As days go by, the true Banda is surfacing. Banda seems to be repeating what her predecessor did. As the Nyasa Times observes, “Eight months, the majority of those getting government contracts have political connections to the ruling People’s Party (PP).”
Interestingly, the poverty that Banda promised to fight is increasing among the Malawians.
In October 2011, Banda slashed her salary by 30% so as to feed hungry Malawians. This was seen as an exemplary and selfless act. Again, looking at what is currently going on in Malawi, Banda becomes more controversial than her predecessor. It is alleged that after being awarded an honorary PhD by South Korean University of Jeoju recently, Banda ordered her portraits reprinted so that the new title would appear before her name. This shocked many due to the fact that it needs a lot of money— the same money Banda wanted to feed poor Malawians. It is the same money Banda thinks the presidential jet consumes.
Given that Banda promised to do things differently from Mutharika (who allegedly held a fake PhD from unaccredited-Hawaii-based Pacific Western University), such a move made her look like her predecessor. She did the same thing Mutharika once did when he ordered his portraits to be reprinted after being awarded honorary professorship of Economics by East China Normal University. By then, Banda was among those who opposed this move. She, too, abhorred calling Mutharika Ngwazi, the title the former Dictator Hastings Kamuzu Banda preferred.
Some African rulers like to adorn big titles that they did not toil for. This would not be a problem if they kept the titles to themselves without involving the public purse. Indeed, this act is becoming another big anathema for our economy. Is Banda becoming another disaster for Malawi?