Joyce Banda's 2 year presidency

The end of March saw a period of political intensity. John Tembo was giving serious hints of running for president in 2014; Atupele Muluzi had just been released from prison amidst his full blown presidential campaign. His lieutenants were all the web canvassing for him. Kamuzu Chibambo and Chauncy Jere of PETRA were busy sending emails and Facebook messages touting their solutions to the problems facing the country. All that came to a sudden halt early April when the late president died.

So far we have heard nothing from these presidential aspirants. Have John Tembo’s unique solutions for the country become redundant with the ascension of the new president? Has Atupele’s message for a fresh and youthful leadership become fulfilled in the 62-year-old Joyce Banda? What happened to Kamuzu Chibambo and Chauncy Jere?

One would expect that any serious presidential candidate would, during this period, issue a statement reaffirming his vision and goals for the country while of course offering condolences. None of them said anything. In fact they seem confused as to what their next step ought to be. This is the problem with presidential candidates who focus their energy on personalities. Once the personality is removed they become disoriented.

Joyce Banda is sworn in at her inauguration on April 7, 2012 as Malawi's new president, becoming its first female leader . AFP PHOTO / STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN

If ever there was a time for a very strong opposition, that time is now. If history is any indication, Joyce Banda will not solve the problems of this country. Success in life does not come by chance. Any primary school football coach will tell you that if a player is not good in the B-team, you cannot expect him to play well in the A-team, regardless of the amount of goodwill available. No amount of goodwill can turn a Lucas Radebe into a David Beckham!

Joyce Banda’s record as a leader of her party is open for all to see. We know that she led the most chaotic opposition party. Today, months after that party was formed, there is still no platform anywhere detailing what the party’s vision for the country is. The only document that party ever produced is an incomplete website which only details the districts of origin of the party officials.

Joyce Banda failed to recruit innovative fresh minds into her party. Her party is so much stacked with recycled politicians that one wonders whether it will not take us 10 years back. Do we honestly expect her to magically change her leadership qualities while in office? The record is clear – we cannot expect new ideas or initiatives from this administration. Joyce is a mediocre team B player who cannot be expected to play well in team A.

The problems Malawi experiences require a new beginning, new ideas, new initiatives and a new perspective. The long fuel queues we have been seeing since 2010 will continue until we get to the root cause of the problem. While Bingu was a very convenient scapegoat, the real issues are twofold: first, an explosion of population in a landlocked country with limited resources. And second, an explosion of appetite for foreign commodities including high-tech products. Folks in the villages aspire for the same iphone as a Hollywood actor. New gadgets such as flat screen TVs and top of the line cars abound on the streets of Lilongwe, Blantyre and Mzuzu. This is not bad at all. The problem is that our exports are not expanding. We are still exporting the same amount of tobacco we exported while Kamuzu Banda was in office. Worse still, the market for tobacco is dwindling. We have buried our heads in the sand while the rest of the world is busy discouraging smoking. Of course we should not be surprised that we have forex issues and long fuel queues.

Today none in the new administration or opposition parties have articulated these problems and told the country what their solutions will be. It is difficult to see how Joyce Banda will even try to tackle these problems when the core of her administration was part and parcel of the same people who failed to govern in the past. Remember, she and Bingu crafted the policies we see today. Their disagreement was never a policy issue. In terms of policy, they were joined at the hip until the succession issue came up.

All Malawians should send a clear message to this new administration that there will be no honeymoon; that there will be no time for learning on the job; and if they do not deliver, Joyce will in 2014 add to her string of “accomplishments” another record namely, the only female president in the world to have been in office for only less than half a term.

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