Malawi former president Joyce Banda refused to be drawn into political debates during questions time at London School of Economic and Political Science during her public lecture when one member of the audience asked her a question.
A student from Malawi, Atupele Chakwera, asked Banda if the current government is failing when compared with her achievements when she was Head of State.
Banda, who has been given fellowship by the top university, responded:” I have no answer to that question, statistics are there for people to come up with their own conclusions.”
She gave a public lecture on: “Investigating women’s journey into public life: Above the Parapet” on Wednesday and again went into a lecture in Public Administration class as part of her fellowship.
In her lecture, Banda said when she became president against all odds, insinuations and perceptions that Malawi was not ready for a woman President particularly at time when the country was a verge of collapse; she made several critical policy decisions that demonstrated that women leaders are risk takers.
“I had to make a painful but necessary decision to devalue the currency by almost 40 percent in order to save the economy from collapse, knowing very well the consequences of such decision on the popularity of my leadership. However, I was convinced that it was the best decision I could do for my country and my people,” she said.
Banda said her government pursued an open and inclusive society where all those who were refused radio and television licences merely on political grounds were given.
Furthermore, she said her administration repealed most of the oppressive laws that impinged on peoples’ freedoms and rights. These included Section 46 of the Penal Code which empowered the Minister of Information to close media houses.
“It will be noted that these changes contributed significantly to the overall growth and in making Malawi to achieve the biggest leap in the 2013 World Press Index on press freedom. As a result of my Government’s actions, Malawi moved from position 146 in 2012 to position 75 in 2013 in the World Press Index,” said Banda.
She also credited herself on the l liquidation of Air Malawi, the country’s flag carrier.
“I liquidated Air Malawi which had collapsed and became a burden on the Government budget for many years. My predecessors had failed to deal with the matter on many occasions for fear of public reaction. Today, we have established a new airline in a Joint Venture with Ethiopian Airlines,” she said.
Banda also said she instituted legal framework for the holding of local government elections as she believed that without devolution of power and services, Malawi could not meaningfully develop our people.
“Indeed for the first time in Malawi, we had tripartite elections leading to the establishment of Local Governments. Malawi had operated without Local Councils for more than 18 years,” pointed out the former president.
Banda also said she developed Economic Recovery Plan which sought to spearhead the economic recovery process of the country.
“We had prioritized five sectors: agriculture, mining, tourism, energy and infrastructure development. Each sector had three priority projects which were designed to spur growth and a turnaround of the economy. The Plan also provided for social protection programs that cushioned the poor and disadvantaged from the adverse effects of the reforms.”
Banda in her lecture said upon learning the nature and gravity of theft of resources in the public service, dubbed cashgate scandal, she immediately instituted a forensic audit by external auditors.
Upon becoming State President, Banda established the Presidential Initiative for Maternal Health and Safe Motherhood where she mobilised traditional leaders, women, communities and the private sector to rally support for the safe motherhood and maternal health.
“Indeed these initiatives helped to remarkably improve the situation I found. We were able to reduce maternal mortality from 675 to 460 deaths per 100,000 live births. United Nations Family Planning Agency (UNFPA) acknowledged this achievement and The African Union Commission gave an award to Malawi for this achievement in 2013.
“I also established the Presidential Initiative for Poverty and Hunger Reduction where we mobilised women and youth into cooperatives, farming clubs and linked them to anchor farms for mentorship. We gave them seeds, a cow a family, linked them to markets and introduced them to modern farming technologies. I up scaled irrigation agriculture and introduced two crops a year to overcome dependence on rain fed farming and thereby broaden our production base and enhance foreign exchange generation,” said Banda.
She said the Initiatives were meant to fast track the economic recovery program in mobilising foreign exchange, ensuring food security; enhance incomes and nutrition at household level.
Appreciating the importance of energy to industry and households, she fast tracked the rollout of rural electrification programme where her administration installed electricity to 81 trading centres in the rural and sub-urban areas; and added 64 megawatts to the national grid with a view that this would impact on many livelihoods majority of whom are women.
“We managed to move the country from 2.1 million people who were food insecure in 2012 to a harvest of 3.9 million metric tonnes maize production in 2013/14 season representing 9 percent higher than the previous season. This accounted for overall 1.5 million metric tonnes surplus maize and with 10 percent increases in other food crop production.”
Banda said her government recovered the economy from 1.8 percent in 2012 grew it by 6.3 percent GDP in 2013.
“We increased our foreign exchange reserve cover from under one week in 2012 to over three months in 2014. The factories were operating at 35 percent when I came in where operating at more than 85 percent when I left. Fuel supply was at less than a day when I came in, and moved to more than 15 days when I left. We had initiated a water project in every district; and a model village in every district,” said the former Malawi leader.
According to Banda, growth is not merely GDP growth but it is about wealth and prosperity for all, opportunity for all, happiness for all, political and economic freedom for all.
“Growth is also about growing the number of children in school, and young people in jobs. Growth is about growing the number of mothers who give safe birth in a hospital, of growing the number of families who have plenty of food,” she said.
Banda prides herself for making progress towards healing the country from tribal and political divisions and strife.
In the fight against theft in government, Banda said she received very good support from civil servants where they drew the Action Plan to reforming the Financial Management Information System in the public service.
Fellow leaders in Africa and the international community also provided valuable support all of which contributed greatly to her Presidency.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :