The day came, Zodiak Broadcasting Station was live at Chikoko Bay. Malawians were glued to their radio devices as the county’s Head of State engaged them in an interview that was moderated by award winning journalist Pilirani Phiri.
For 75 minutes, Pilirani asked his 10 questions, 4 people called and one person sent a text message and the President made effort to put matters in perspective.
Within that multi-faceted interaction, President Joyce Banda spoke for 69 minutes which translates to 92 percent of the time allocated for the program.
Malawians- just as they did before the broadcast-are still deliberating on the issues raised during the program and we know that the pondering will go on for days and weeks to come.
One view on an online social forum noted that the whole act sounded rehearsed from start to finish. True, leaders world over do not love going into an arranged interview without knowing in advance what is going to be said. What changes along the way is how the moderator takes grip and diverts the seemingly obvious course to an unfamiliar zone.
Some people made it clear before the program that they expected it to be handled with a tone and demeanor just like BBC’s Hard Talk or other similar programs. However, we think Pilirani did a good job though he was not the same guy we listen to every Sunday evening in “Tiuzeni Zoona” program. He is better placed to tell us why he shifted his presentation but the bottom line is that he planned his act and got what he was looking for.
On the other hand, the President did a good job. She sounded calm and confident as she tackled issues that had been burning on people’s minds for the past months. Some of these were the retracted appointment of Khumbo Kachali as overseer of MEC, the compensation packages given to former government employees who left their posts in the months after Bingu’s death, Nsanje World Inland Port, Ndata University (MUST) and economic reforms among other issues.
On Kachali’s appointment, the President’s answer brought her opponents to the edge of their toes before she retreated and told them how she is a listening leader who can take back tough decisions for the sake of serving the public.
Another issue that had been troubling people was that of her external and internal travels. Some quarters have recently come hard on the President saying she is wasting public resources. JB dilly dallied on the main gist of the answer as she talked about her external trips which she counted to be 8 and quickly pointed that five of those were fully funded by the powers that invited her.
Nevertheless, she remained on track and jumped on the contentious aspect of the issue from internal travels’ perspective. Here she prominently highlighted her philosophy as a President while stifling the question and addressing the clogging fears. She made it clear that she is ready to continue engaging the masses through official visits that are coupled with public meetings.
One area for which Patriots Forum give kudos to the State President is how she chose to look at trends rather than isolated occurrences. She focused repetitively on the period of 18 months she asked from Malawians so that she can turn things around before venturing on taking Malawi to the next step of economic development.
In the same vein she put it clear than in the period within 2004-05, Malawi was again faced with a situation where she had to make sacrifices in line with demands by the Bretton Woods institutions and other international cooperating partners. She sees the current set of reforms as another stepping stone to the dry land. Her advice though is that whenever we get past these reforms and are back on dry land, we must not to be derailed again by selfish motives. Forward ever; is her motto.
Another area scoring highly on the discussions now is how and why Joyce Banda reminded or emphasized that she is finishing a term that does not belong to her. We look at it as a smart way of distancing herself away from the effects of the mess created by the previous regime while stamping her authority on the successes that will emanate from her intervention. She is a politician, who can blame her?
She knows that it is now an open secret that those who sympathize with the previous regime are uncomfortable when the present ruling class reminds Malawians time and again who the source of the problems was?In politics they say “What makes your opponent flinch becomes your best weapon to crush him, leave him in shame while you find your next destination” The more it pains the former ruling party, the more it scores more marks; that’s the rule of the game I guess.
At the end of it all, people who were glued to the radio for 75 minutes had to make their own judgments on what they think Joyce Banda is doing as the Head of State.
She might not have answered everybody’s lingering question due to our varying needs and limitation of airtime but as Patriots Forum, we think that she used her 70 minutes well and kept her mind aware of the balance between many constituencies of the society she serves. The callers were civil enough as well.
At the end of it all, our democracy has been decorated and our civilized way of handling issues has been put in good light. Always for the good of Mother Malawi.