Man is smart, but is a woman smarter?

A strong start:

President Joyce Banda, contrary to what her hecklers said, wished and tried in vain to foil ndi boma lero. And as we speak, her approval ratings are sky-high; and she faces literally no opposition. The same cannot be said of her predecessor in his last twenty four months – which speaks volumes.

But having said that, while this sort of support and abundant goodwill is good – in that she will not waste time justifying or explaining many of her decisions; it comes at a cost because it is opposing and contrary views that enable one to think through various courses of action and hence arrive at carefully-weighed decisions.

Through debate and criticism, good ideas are set aside for better ideas; and the better ideas are in turn substituted for the best ideas and this getting and incorporating diverse opinions plays a huge role in the quality of the final decisions.

President Joyce Banda

And therefore with little or no opposition – she is a sitting duck, the strong start notwithstanding.

Wrong crowd:

But a sitting duck or not, it is for President Joyce Banda to sustain her popularity or throw it away and enjoy the wrath of the expectant public. And she can quickly achieve the latter with just one or two unpopular decisions.

To put things in their proper perspective, let us to go one step back: to around the time she was fired from the then ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).

At that time, Nyasa Times – always a step ahead of the rest – was revealing and reporting development by development, as the DPP politburo tightened the noose around her neck, to break her into blindly endorsing Peter Mutharika’s ride to 2014.

On a bad day, comments on a JB related news item on Nyasa Times would total 200 with 80% of them sympathising with her and encouraging her to fight the good fight and with 20% calling her all sorts of names.

The DPP, without foresight, went on to fire her; and this earned her even more admirers – on and offline; in both the urban and rural areas. At that time when she was fired, practically everybody in full possession of their faculties, wanted   a piece of this brave lady: the abused house-wife who became a “mandasi” seller; the “mandasi” seller  who earned a ministerial post, the minister who went on to become the first female vice president; the female vice president who defied the president.

The support and goodwill persisted and was increasing exponentially – until she formed the Peoples Party (PP). However, the moment she announced the PP executive line up; the momentum started falling and dissipating.

What had gone wrong? She had associated herself with the wrong crowd.

For now, let us leave this at that.

Popular Disenchantment:

Many people were greatly disillusioned. People had expected a totally new agenda from her, and had been looking forward to seeing new and clean faces, they had visualised ‘new wine in new skins’ – and sadly, this is not what the PP executive turned up to be.

A lot of JB’s well-wishers were disillusioned and left her to her own devices. Which is why as soon as Atupele Muluzi came up with his brilliant “Change Agenda”, he quickly replaced JB as the symbol of change.

Again it explains why when Henry D Phoya announced his move after being evicted by Big Brother; a lot of people started seriously considering joining the Malawi Congress Party (MCP) in the event that Phoya is allowed to take full charge.

Second chance:

Now as fate would have it, President Joyce Banda has once again been granted a second chance, not at party level this time but at national level. And her fairy-tale rise has taken an added dimension – from the abused house-wife who became a “mandasi” seller; and all that jazz, she is now the female vice president who became the first female president – in a country where being a woman is not considered an asset in leadership positions.

Litmus Test:

Now, her predecessor did not leave much in terms of the quality of people heading public institutions and cabinet portfolios. Most of them were appointed either for blind political loyalty or tribal affiliation. This is an undisputable fact.

Which means that, unlike the PP which she started from scratch; she has inherited a potentially weak system which she needs to sweep clean. But this has to be done legally and by following due processes or else there will be a lot of law suits – and she would not want that.

The question is: is she going to replace these tribal or political appointees; some of whom are proven non-performers with another mediocre lot bent and intent on making a quick buck at the expense of Malawians?

Is she going to repeat the PP blunder and risk public disenchantment?

Caveats:

Whatever she does, whosoever she selects – following due process – to head public institutions and to serve as cabinet ministers, the president has to follow what the law says on such appointments to the letter and take note of the following:

  • While lining up PP with the sorry lot that she picked up was party business and no-one really cared, as a president of nation – her team is everybody’s business.
  • Coming up with the right or wrong team will reflect on her legacy; and as Malawi’s first female president she owes it to herself, our daughters and sisters to prove that girls can do what boys do, and do it even better.
  • The firing part is easy – apparently some undeserving CEOs have already packed up and are merely waiting for the boot; it is the hiring that is tricky. Qualifications, experience, ability to lead and learn, striking a regional balance and giving the youth a chance – all come into play.
  • And most importantly, the team that she has inherited shares the blame for the current ills Malawi is facing and it would be insane to expect this very team to solve this. Take the cabinet lot for example, if they failed to reign in the late president when he set about destroying his legacy, what guarantee does she have that they will help her in the development of Malawi? Zero, in my opinion.

Conclusion:

As Lee Iacocca said, the speed of the boss is the speed of the team – and never mind how good or bad President Joyce Banda personally is, picking the right team of advisors, ministers, and heads of government institutions is everything.

To conclude the onus is on President Joyce Banda: if she (and her team) fails even in the short term and time is running out fast, she will fail miserably in 2014 and people will say ‘we told you so’.

If she succeeds, she will not succeed alone, she will have lifted our mothers, sisters, daughters and mother Malawi; and would have proved that while men are smart, women are smarter and by josh, what a legacy is she going to leave when she steps down!

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