Is Thoko Banda the new AKB?

At 49 Thoko Banda, the dude who wants to lead the 15 million of us after the 2014 elections, is no “spring chicken”.

But, hey, in a race in which an octogenarian thinks he still has his mojo to transact state business on Capital Hill, Thoko is to us what Obama was to Americans some five years ago.

But, like Obama, is he the change agent we can “believe in”?

Just like Atupele Muluzi before him, Thoko Banda is riding on the crest of his dad’s big name. He cannot begin to deny that.

But then nothing exactly wrong with that. George W. Bush lodged in the White House after George H. Bush and Uhuru Kenyatta is in State House in Nairobi in the footsteps of his dad.

And Thoko, to give credit where credit is due, is saying all the right things. He told Malawi News that gone are the days where “whistle-stop tours that have no meaningful policy content beyond headlines, character assassinations designed to scare off political opponents and frighten voters into intimidated compliance, attempts to buy voters with hand-outs of cash or maize or such, pretentious convoys that tie up traffic and disrupt non-campaigning Malawians” are the order of the day.

Thoko Banda
Thoko Banda

Thoko, the former diplomat, wants to change the “the electoral culture” where leadership should be the “preserve only of the wealthy and their families and friends”. Never mind that his own dad – my idol, Aleke Kadonaphani Banda – is no small name.

When Thoko announced his arrival on the political scene he told us how Atupele’s ‘Agenda for Change’ is the next best thing to happen to Malawians. He spoke highly of Atupele and implored us to support the youthful politician.

So what has gone wrong for Thoko to part ways with Atupele? He told Malawi News yesterday: “The Malawian people have been hopping from one political party to the other and then back again.” By dumping Atupele so soon is he not suffering from the same political ineptitude he wants to change?

By partnering with Atupele, Thoko excited a certain section of Malawians which now feels betrayed by his fickleness. How does he build the trust he so needs to establish himself as a politician if he can change goal posts within months?

He is berating the old school of politics as lacking in principle and yet his own shifty behaviour is betraying the same deficiency in principle. He has a lot of explanation to make if he is to win my vote.

His dad had such an amazing work ethic not many can equal; the young Banda must develop a political ethic if he hopes to stay not only long but relevant in politics.

  •  The original version of this article appears in the Sunday Times

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