Nyasa Times felicitations to President Joyce Banda: Special Editorial

First and foremost, we at the Nyasa Times wish to congratulate Her Excellency Joyce Hilda Mtila Banda on her ascendancy to high office of State President of the Republic of Malawi. We wish her all the best and we have enough reasons to trust her to perform this rather tough job very well.

Secondly, we want to put it in black and white that we will be at her and the Malawi nation’s service – like we have always done since we graced cyberspace in 2007 January 5. This, we will continue to do with our unique no-holds-barred and no-secret-under-the sun, moon and sky approach to issues.

And in this regard, in our distinctive style, today is as good as any, to start being of service to her Excellency.

President Banda: Hope she can spur recovery

In our humble opinion, President Joyce Hilda Mtila Banda could not have assumed this high office at a better time for the Malawi nation and its people. But at the same time, President Banda personally could not have ascended to the high office of the Republic of Malawi at a worse time: inheriting such a hopeless state of affairs and “empty coffers” as former President Bakili  Muluzi used to say.

Malawi is not only mourning the loss of her leader, the late President Bingu wa  Mutharika; Malawi is a country that needed to be admitted at the ICU yesterday; no cancel that – last year; wrong again, strike that out – the year before last year. That was when Malawi needed admission at the ICU.

Such being the case, meeting public expectations require nothing short of a miracle. Malawians expect President Banda to:

1.      immediately reverse the economic meltdown,

2.      urgently restore to their previous state the diplomatic relations with Britain,

3.      swiftly restore the programme with global lender IMF which will see donors re-open aid taps

4.      speedily investigate the mysterious fires, the July 20 and University student Robert Chasowa’s deaths – bringing to book all those found responsible, and

5.      as soon as possible, get rid of the “very bad laws” enacted by the DPP majority-led parliament.

While the success or failure or for that matter – delays, towards these critical endeavours hinge on her Excellency’s leadership and cooperation from all patriotic Malawians and development partners of goodwill, there are some issues which are 100% in her purview.

Ranking number one on the list of tasks that only her Excellency can make a difference on, is fighting against corruption, nepotism and cronyism.

Her predecessor – may the good Lord have mercy on his soul – started very well in this direction but for some inexplicable reason, lost steam. We hope that Her Excellency President Joyce Hilda Mtila Banda will put the eradication of these evils, especially this one called corruption, high on her list of priorities.

At the pain of being boring, but to emphasize the relevance of eradicating corruption from our midst, we will belabour this issue.

1.      Even if, somehow, the economic meltdown is reversed very soon, if corruption persists, only the elite and those with connections will benefit and the poor, who her Excellency has always championed, will remain behind and get even poorer.

2.      Even if we start enjoying full diplomatic relations again with Britain and other countries that had resorted, due to our intransigence, to a carrot and stick approach – a case in point being the US and the suspended MCC Compact; if corruption is not stamped out, they will spurn us again.

3.      Assuming that the ECF programme with global lender the IMF is restored and budgetary support and other forms of aid resume; if corruption is not dealt a death blow, the poor will suffer even more and, believe us when we say that the IMF and the donors will, again, snub us.

The fight against corruption should therefore be reinvigorated and pursued relentlessly without regard to the blue, orange, yellow, green or any political colour that the corrupt individual or institution wears. We hope this message is clear enough.

And then there is the “little” issue of preparing for the 2014 General Elections and the question of levelling the playing field. Her Excellency’s presidency might as well be God-sent if she can do the needful to make the Malawi Electoral Commission truly independent.

Doing this could ensure that future leaders are indeed chosen by the people; and not through some bizarre prearrangement by some outgoing president. This is an area that her Excellency has the power again to remedy for future generations to truly enjoy our hard won democracy. If she achieves this, she will have carved her legacy in stone.

Moving on, there is the contentious issue of devaluation, which we saved for last. Talking of devaluation, there is a saying in the vernacular that we will apply. Translated literally it says “he/she, who weds in the family of thunder and lightning, should not fear thunder”.

We will improvise on this and put it this way: “she who takes control over a country ravaged by thunder, should brace for the worst and come prepared”. This sums up President Joyce Banda’s precarious position vis-à-vis devaluing the Kwacha or not.

The point is: this devaluation issue is a sticky one, a double edged sword if you want to call it that. If we devalue the kwacha, we are in trouble. Prices, in the short run, will skyrocket and the new President will be blamed. But, there will be countless benefits but these will come in the long run, after the blame has already been consigned to her.

If we do not devalue the Kwacha – which is senseless because the Kwacha has in effect already devalued itself – we are also in trouble. With our Kwacha over-valued as it is, we cannot hope to compete or even play on the international market.

Fertilizers, medicines, plant and machinery for new industry spares and parts and fuel will continue to be scarce, both in the short and long term, because there is in Malawi just too much demand and there are not so many dollars flying around. Do we want to go the Zimbabwe way and dollarize? We guess not.

But, if we continue dilly-dallying we will soon have to dollarize. A case in point is the airlines that now refuse to transact in Malawi Kwacha. Many more companies will follow or close; jobs will be lost and again, the new President will take the blame because President Mutharika, the punch-bag, is no longer on the scene to shoulder the blame.

Our considered advice is that the new President should immediately hold honest consultations with experts at the Reserve Bank of Malawi and the commercial banks, Ministry of Finance officials, economics gurus at the Economics Association of Malawi (ECAMA), members of the other political parties, the Malawi Chambers of Commerce and Industry – the list is not exhaustive; to come up with a package of measures that will ease the short term shock and pain that the devaluation will cause.

The bottom line is the Kwacha has to be devalued. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are manned by people with human hearts; who given soberly thought-out arguments, would understand and support Malawi.

As we said in the second paragraph her Excellency and her new government should expect no “sweetheart” journalism from the Malawi media in general and the Nyasa Times in particular. In fact, her Excellency should know that the media in Malawi only wish the best for her and for mother Malawi.

In fact we can dare say that if she takes the entire independent Malawi media seriously; she will sail smoothly beyond 2014. If, on the other hand she chooses to misalign the media, she will dread giving press conferences which could be a lost opportunity since press conferences to the astute politician, serve as a forum for explaining government’s policies.

To wind up, we all love the Warm Heart of Africa, and come to think of it, there is only one warm heart in Africa; therefore let us all join hands to make it thrive. We look up to Her Excellency Joyce Hilda Mtila Banda to lead us through this difficult period with the confidence that she has what it takes.

We will conclude by paraphrasing the words of Associate Professor Blessings Chinsinga upon the new President’s ascendancy to high office: we feel that we are moving in the right direction and we can already feel freedom in the air!

And with these words, once again permit us on this joyous and historical occasion to reiterate our heartfelt congratulations; and may God bless our land of Malawi abundantly!

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