Opposition People’s Party (PP) leader Joyce Banda, wh made history becoming Malawi’s first female president and only the second woman to lead a country in Africa, has said she is readying to contest for presidency again in next year’s elections to reclaim the top post she lost four years ago.
She never won the presidential race but took power in 2012 following the death of 78-year-old President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died in office after heading up the southern Africa country since 2004.
Banda went on a self-imposed exile after losing the country’s election to her rival President Peter Mutharika in 2014 when she came third with less than 20 percent of total votes behind MCP’s Lazarus Chakwera.
But since her return in April, she has been addressing political meetings hinting her presidential run and on Sunday at a political rally in Nyambadwe Primary School ground in Blantyre, she candidly said she is interested to run for presidency in next year’s May watershed elections.
She said her PP will have to decide to make her torch bearer during their national convention . The party is yet to announce dates when it will hold the convention.
“But let me tell you that I am also contesting at our convention,” she informed, saying Sunday’s rally was the 14th she has addressed since her return home in April to consult PP leaders, family members and other individuals to come up with a decision to run.
“If you vote for me during the forthcoming party convention, then I will contest as PP’s torchbearer in next year’s polls,” she said.
Banda at the rally attacked the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration that it has “miserably failed” to deliver on its socio-economic promises to Malawians contrary to President Peter Mutharika’s claims.
She said all the Mutharika administration has been doing is to duplicated developmental projects she initiated while in office, to hoodwink Malawians that it was doing something.
The former president cited a water project in Dowa and the Lirangee-Chingale-Machinga Road construction project.
Banda wondered why the DPP administration was wasting public funds in laying foundation stones which she had already done.
Some observers fear President Mutharika will thwart Banda’s presidential ambition by disqualifying her through criminal charges and that the safest route will be to maintain the existing secret “amnesty” from prosecution on Cashgate cases by not being antagonistic the regime and back it in 2019 polls.
Mutharika’s government issued an arrest warrant for Banda last July for alleged complicity in the so-called Cashgate scandal during her brief tenure as president where around US$32 million in total, almost 1% of Malawi’s annual GDP, of state funds were siphoned.
Banda has always claimed that Cashgate took off under the presidency of her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika – brother of the current incumbent – and that she had nothing to do with it. Most observers believe her but acknowledge that the state looting probably accelerated on her watch.
Malawi’s first female president made it clear though that she felt Malawi badly needed change. She also insisted she wasn’t afraid of being arrested on the Cashgate corruption charges.
But political analysts in the country have said even if Banda contest for presidency, she has slim chances of winning or even being the closest challenger of Mutharika.
Lilongwe-based political and governance analyst Henry Chingaipe observed that Banda’s PP is “in tatters” as its support base has dwindled due to her four-year absence .
University of Malawi’s political scientist Ernest Thindwa also said Banda chances to win are very slim.
Joyce Banda, 68, cut her teeth in politics in 1999 when she won a parliamentary seat on the ticket of the former ruling United Democratic Front.
She was one of the founders of DPP when late President Bingu wa Mutharika ditched UDF to form his party.
But she left DPP by refusing to endorse Bingu’s plans for his brother, Peter Mutharika, to succeed him as president in 2014 when he was due to retire.
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