Is Malawi media responsible for Joyce Banda downfall?

In what would have been an opportunity to mend with everyone after her downfall in the last elections where she was left highly bruised, Her Excellency the former president, Dr. Joyce Banda faults the media for her image and reputation.

In a direct address to the nation through his Facebook page, which has over 500,000 followers, JB lists the achievements under her government to remind Malawians of how hard she tried to develop Malawi. Among many of the achievements listed, Dr. Joyce Banda says she has managed to raise Malawi’s’ economic from 1.8% to 6% within two years.

She was on the path to redeeming Malawi from frequent Blackouts scared investors for so many years and made companies make losses due to its unpredictability by boosting electricity generation capacity by 64megawatts. In the last days before she took over office, Malawi was in a situation that almost paralyzed Malawi business sector and operations- scarcity of Fuel. Within a few days of her leadership, the situation was normalized.

Firmer president Banda
Firmer president Banda

Strength of a woman
Many analyst described Joyce Banda as a brave woman who defied all odds to devalue the kwacha so that it could reflect its true value. Her strength to woe donors back to Malawi after they got scared when British Ambassador to Malawi was declared persona non grata won her a lot of praise from international community. She became a darling of the international community. She wished away the presidential Jet and formed a cabinet committee that later resolved to sell the jet appeasing Britain which all alone thought the purchase of the Jet was exorbitant on the ailing economy of Malawi.

Everybody including the media were so skeptical from the beginning on Dr. Bandas’ abilities to govern Malawi and steer it to new levels surpassing her predecessors first five years that registered Malawi as the fastest growing economies of the world in 2009 with 8.3 percent of GDP growth. President Bingu had left a legacy of mixed opportunities and cross-cutting edge of success.

It did not take long for the media to start scrutinizing President Joyce Banda’s’ two years of executive powers that immediately left the president commenting as quoted by the daily times of Malawi ‘when I became president, I thought media were my partner, but I have serious problems, especially with the newspapers. At first I thought Bingu wa Mutharika was wrong. But I have realized that you have no compassion and you can kill a sitting president. But Bingu tried to fight the media and you killed him.’

It did not take long before the media started questioning the path madam President was taking. The selling of the Jet became questionable. Not only was she globetrotting but the media found her movements within and outside irrelevant considering the implementation of Economic recovery plan. They argued her actions were in sharp contrast to the written actions to rejuvenate Malawi.

Media questions the firing of specific appointed officials who ended pocketing huge sums of money through compensations. She found all this scrutiny by media as too much that she decided to stop reading the newspapers-probably to relieve stressing mornings.

Just when she thought she will have a breather by preferring to hire the international media to do damage control for her, guardian newspaper of United Kingdom found a pile of electronic mails in a Jet selling deal. Local media took it up to find no single kwacha went into account number one-a thing her minister of finance tried to justify unsuccessfully.

What the media thought was job for them became a nightmare for President Joyce Banda. Cash gate scandal found its place on the front page of every paper each day. Money was everywhere in peoples car boots, ceilings. Government officials were swimming in Money. The media had their day, they laughed their day to publish what they thought was sweet news in the newsroom.

Ralph Kasambala, a cabinet minister who was fired suspected to be involved in the cash gate made it so bad by mentioning the state president as a witness in the case. Meaning the president as well was involved.

The downfall

There were tough days coming ahead of Joyce Banda. Elections were around the corner and unlike Bingu wa Mutharika where Public Affair Committee and civil society wanted to decide his fate, the performance appraisal for JB was to be done by the mass through elections-days were approaching so fast.

President Joyce Banda was completely trounced during elections as a vote of no confidence by Malawians. She never at any point in the elections came close to winning as she was left on position three from the total votes. She later came on Television to concede defeat after attempted efforts to nullify the elections proved futile as constitutional powers did not allow her to do so. She was left bruised that she never attended the inauguration ceremony of the President Peter Mutharika.

In Her first address to the nation after the defeat, President Joyce Banda has thanked all Malawians for supporting her in her political Career except the media which she says has painted her badly.

‘I want to thank all of you who have supported me so passionately throughout my political career. The Media has painted many pictures of me in the last few years and some of them could be cause for concern, but you have been so faithful and steadfast in your continued support and belief in my leadership. I am eternally grateful for the ways in which you have empowered me and all that I stand for.’ Says Joyce Banda in the statement.

This clearly shows Joyce Banda never enjoyed the media which kept her on her toes always. The media gave her the platform to debate and articulate her policies to the people through presidential debates, an olive branch she refused to grab.

It is now clear that for someone to be successful in the political career, there is no need to fight the media. Their job is to make noise on behalf of the public. Each president will suffer great agony and flaw if they underrate the power of the media. Joyce Banda has had her share and remains a great task for each politician to be accountable to the people by either playing together with the media or avoiding them at their own risk.

The media in Malawi remains the strongest despite the wave of social networking which has threatened the truth and several occasions. Despite the lack of deep investigative prowess, the media has played a huge role in the fall of President Joyce Banda who they described as ‘lacking direction for the country.’

Media could have done better though than waiting for the shooting of Paul Phwiyo to know that cash gate is in the country. The media should have done better by now by fighting to have access to the names that are in the cash gate audit report and the media can do better to trace when exactly the cash gate started.

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