At exactly half past one in the afternoon on Saturday, state vice president Joyce Banda took her seat at Masintha Ground where her newly-registered People’s Party was being officially launched in the central region.
When she took to the podium to address thousands of enthusiastic supporters, most of whom clad in the party’s official orange colours, Banda sternly warned perpetrators of state-sponsored violence “today” that they risk being brought to book when government changes in not too distant future.
The state vice president advised the youth, particularly those from her party, to desist from acts of violence, saying they risk being prosecuted while leaders that send them “enjoy tea” in the confines of their homes.
“Those that indulge in political violence today are known and a day will come when they will have to account for their unfortunate and brutal conduct,” she said, amidst loud applause.
Malawi has experienced a spate of politically-motivated violent acts, which have included the torching of a civil society leader, Reverend MacDonald Sembereka’s house in Balaka; offices belonging to Institute for Policy Interaction of Rafiq Hajat in Blantyre; and a house belonging to PP’s organizing secretary, Salim Bagus in Lilongwe.
In a more recent incident, Robert Chasowa, a fourth-year engineering student and political activist who was found dead under suspicious circumstances at the Polytechnic, a constituent college of the University of Malawi, on September 24, 2011.
Chasowa was the vice-chair of a student activist group, Youth for Democracy (YFD). The YFD printed a weekly pro-democracy and anti-Bingu wa Mutharika administration newsletter called the Weekly Political Update.
Faults Government on tobacco prices
On agriculture, Malawi’s economic mainstay, Banda is squarely blamed government for the unprecedentedly poor tobacco prices in the country in the past two years, accusing the Bingu wa Mutharika administration of pursuing unfavourable agricultural policies.
Banda said the prevailing average price of 40 cents per kilo on auction floors was unheard of, particularly during the reign of Bakili Muluzi and his predecessor Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda.
“They blame it (low prices) on worldwide anti-smoking lobby but I have always argued that tobacco in the neighbouring countries of Zambia and Zimbabwe continues to fetch better prices than in Malawi. Is the anti-smoking lobby only targeted at Malawi? No, no, we must revisit our policies on the whole matter,” Banda told the huge gathering.
But offered her self to find solutions to the low tobacco prices phenomenon, noting the most of present most top officers in the Mutharika administration had spent many years outside the country may not quite conversant with the problems and possible solutions for the tobacco industry and agriculture at large.
“If you claim that the tobacco market is shrinking, send me, I’ll find alternative and better markets elsewhere,” said the first woman vice president in Malawi, attracting a deafening applause from her supporters.
Banda also said when the forms the next government in 2014, it would pursue deliberate policies to diversify agriculture, as agriculture was not only about farming.
She hinted that mechanization would be also be vital to ensure that farmers harvested enough for food and for sale, arguing the traditional hoe farming was both archaic and tiresome.
She promised she would facilitate the provision of small tractors that would be distributed among villages across the country and that they would be used among smallholder farmers, which she said would allow for speedy cultivation of various crops.
On the new flag, which bears a full sun, the VP said her party would bring back the old flag, which bore a rising sun “as Malawi has not fully developed as claimed by the authorities”.
Speaking at the same function, PP vice president Khumbo Kachali said although president Mutharika excluded Banda from the new list of cabinet members “opting to include his wife instead”, Banda remained the constitutional vice president of Malawi.
“Nothing has changed, Madame Joyce Banda remains the vice president even in the light of bedroom appointments,” Kachali said, attracting a loud applause.
Apart from the speeches, the occasion was also spiced by a disco performance, choirs and traditional dances that included Chiwoda, Ingoma and Gule wa Mkulu.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :