JB had no agenda at meeting, lady civil servants complain

If what vocal consumer rights activist John Kapito said on the need for President Joyce Banda to re-assess counsel she gets from closer aides is anything to go by, the Malawi’s first female President still faces a daunting task to get her first ballot election triumph in 2014, observers have indicated.

On Sunday morning, the President hosted hundreds of women to some prayers at the State House in Lilongwe concerning the problems the country is sailing through.

But it is the meeting with the civil service women from Lilongwe in the afternoon that has slit the hornets’ nest threatening JB’s political career.

Over 4,000 women working in the civil service were summoned to the State House in Lilongwe to have a “chat” with the President with most women who spoke to Nyasa Times say, had no agenda.

President Banda and civil servants

“We were told to list all our names on Thursday last week and send them to the OPC  [Office of President and Cabinet] for the meeting with the President and on Sunday afternoon after the prayers we all gathered to hear the reasons why we were summoned,” said one civil servant who refused to be named for fear of reprisals.

She said President Banda had no clear message for them only to tell the women that her government has set up an economic recovery plan and also appointed the reforms implementation taskforce which includes influential women in civil service.

“She seemed tongue-tied to deliver the intended message for the call up because what she was saying did not make sense as we get most of those communications from OPC through circulars, we had no agenda meeting JB,” said another woman.

One senior civil servant could not express her disappointment describing as an insult by the top office to give them K1000 (US$3) after the meeting.

“The organisers should have advised her never to insult us that way, the fact that we work in the civil service does not mean we live on a thousand kwacha. That money would have been put to good use like helping the struggling hospitals in the city or buy items for orphans,” said another lady a Chief Economist in one of the government ministries who attended the meeting.

Of late President Banda has been on sympathy vote-buying campaign courting chiefs to dine and wine at the Palace while elevating some in political influential districts and also arming them with several hundreds of thousands of kwacha.

Observers have warned that the President must deal with core issues such as rising commodity prices, breakdown in security and worsening standards of living of poor Malawians other than dining with the “few” at the Palace.

“She is denting her image as the head of State and as the torch bearer for her party PP in 2014 because the steam on the surface such as the industrial actions means there is water boiling down and that pot is in the slams of the towns and cities and locals in the village where majority of poor Malawians live,” said one Observer.

An accomplished politician, Joyce Banda was hailed and tipped to turnaround the economy of Malawi upon ascending to power in April this year after the demise of her picker Bingu wa Mutharika.

However, many especially those in poor settings have started to raise eyebrows of her promise to help poor Malawians live another day.

Many Malawians condemned her jubilation of 100 days in office saying the country had no reason to do that because it had lost a head of state within the same year and the country had no finances to fund such extravagances.

Her political henchmen backed the celebrations as warranted for donor confidence was now coming back.

But less than 300 days in office, donors are now showing no willingness to give budgetary support aid to Malawi asking for more “commitment” from JB’s government.

The economy is now being weighed down by soaring basic commodity prices and untamed strikes in most strategic points such as utilities and the academia looking for higher pays to match the economic conditions.

Others like civil servants who account to over 60 percent of the country’s workforce are on standby to put their tools down if government does not adjust their salaries by over 50 percent this month.

Women civil servants at the State House

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