Timau: A reflection of the first 100 days of Malawi Presidents

The torrent of analysis and appraisal, hagiography and scorn levelled at President Joyce Banda’s first 100 days was relatively quiet on the issue of “Mandasi woman”. That’s shocking when you consider how all consuming the issue was during her fight with the Bingu wa Mutharika administration. Keep this point.

Joyce Banda’s first 100 days in office came to an end on 15th July. Some people were expecting miracles, others abject failure during the first 100 days. Both were disappointed. We, the Timau Crew don’t know why people place so much importance in a new President’s first 100 days. It’s not like after the first 100 days the President will be chasing time. After July, you will still have 638 days of the Joyce Banda Presidency to look forward to or fear depending on your political leanings.

But since people like the first 100 days of leaders, the Timau Crew will give a reflection of the first 100 days of Malawi’s leaders.

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Malawi President Joyce Banda.

 Hastings Kamuzu Banda (1964-1994)

Kamuzu Banda’s first 100 days were a mixed bag.

A tale of fortune  on one side, and sad stories on the other.

Malawi got her independence on 6th July 1964, a month later; there was a cabinet crisis that rocked the country. What a sad story.

Some members of Banda’s governing cabinet resigned in protest against his autocratic methods and his accommodation with South Africa and Mozambique, a Portuguese colony and the ‘ticky issue’. Banda wanted patients to be paying tick at the hospitals. Since the cold war was in motion, Kamuzu took advantage of the situation to convince the Western donors that the revolting ministers were for communism. This won him admiration from America and Britain. Aid surged into the country like water from the Shire River into Lake Malawi. What a fortune for Banda. During the first 100 days, Malawians were convinced that Kamuzu was the hero and the revolting ministers unpatriotic Malawians.

In short, the first 100 days of Hastings Kamuzu Banda were simply said, the making of a dictator.

 Bakili Elson Muluzi (1994-2004)

The last days of President Muluzi’s rule were marred by controversy and scandal, particularly due to his wish to cling on to power using the infamous third term bill, the sale of reserves of maize to Kenya shortly before the onset of a drought, which resulted in famine throughout the country and the use of  ‘young democrats’ to terrorise people.

Nevertheless, without a doubt, Bakili Muluzi is the only leader who indeed enjoyed his first 100 days. For the first time in Malawi, a leader put down democratic foundations in place. The Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) changed its approach of broadcasting (even though this did not last long). The constitution was adhered to, the rule of law prevailed. Small and medium scale businesses flourished in the country.

People did not just see freedom but they felt free. Muluzi’s only problem during his first 100 days was what politicians would term “parallel structures”.  Bakili formed ‘parallel structures’ with the English language.

Education was pronounced Ejukweshoni, Government became gaffament. He had created phrases like, “I will ensure human right”. Even Chichewa was not spared, anthu became wandu.  In order to circumvent this anomaly, Muluzi had to go through Elocution lessons. The man showed some elements of brilliancy because within his first 100 days his command of the English language was amazing. This gave him uncalled for confidence; he started feeling how important he was.

Again, just like Kamuzu, the first 100 days created a dictator. When he mastered the English language, he started talking to donors with confidence, he could talk to other leaders without reading notes, he could crack jokes in English and that’s how we lost him.

However, Muluzi was in paradise during his first 100 days.

 Bingu wa Mutjharika (2004—2012)

During Bingu’s first 100 days there was a lot of rhetoric. We don’t know whether this public speaking was poetry or prose.

Bingu’s first 100 days gave Malawians hope. Malawians were just coming out of a heavily changed Bakili Muluzi who malformed Malawi into a complete desert. Corruption was order of the day. What Malawians wanted was anything that was going to get them out of this mess.

Now, came in Bingu. This is what he promised Malawians during his first 100 days; fiscal restraint and anti-corruption measures, a high rate of agriculture and food security, economic reforms, youth development, rural development, high quality education, irrigation and water development, he assured Malawians of preserving history hence he brought back Kamuzu’s name in the limelight, It was this class of speechifying that gave hope to Malawians hence they rallied behind him in multitudes.

Little did they know that the first 100 days were again, creating a dictator.

But in spite of all this, Bingu’s first 100 days were on the other side, hell. The opposition gave him hell as he clearly demonstrated that he was not ready to work with the United Democratic Party (UDF) the party that ushered him into power.

So, much as he had the people’s support, Bingu did not enjoy his first 100 days as he had sleepless nights trying to find solutions of how to ditch UDF.

Joyce Hilda Mtila Banda (April 7 – July 16 2012…..)

If we are to consider the first 100 days as a benchmark to measure the early success of a President, Joyce Banda fits in. We told you at the beginning of the article to remember a point.  Go back to it. Joyce was called a mandasi woman but regardless of her short falls her first 100 days have won her praise far and wide.

Let us first take a look at President Joyce Banda’s success.

She inherited a number of challenges from the Mutharika administration and has managed to make reforms  and restored donor support for Malawi.

She has improved the country’s financial situation to the point that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) previously affronted by her predecessor, has now given a positive assessment on the direction the country is going.

She has reversed some stinging laws imposed by her predecessor to the amusement of Malawians and the donor community.

Critics, not surprisingly, carry a diametrically different message. They claim that in her first 100 days Joyce Banda could have declared her possessions but like all her predecessors she is still buying time.

In her first 100 days people say that Joyce Banda should have showed leadership traits, she ought to show that she is President of Malawi. It is not necessarily a unique observation, but amongst many Malawians and even casual observers, they cite Banda’s tone as that of self praise and too much talk of her previous family problems to buy sympathy from Malawians. Critics want her to put Malawi and its people first.

Ironically, the area she has received most criticism on is the one she is heavily equipped in. She has got her husband a highly respected retired Chief Justice, Ralph Kasambara one of the most brilliant lawyers the country has produced as Minister of Justice and Attorney General and a well respected politician, a lawyer himself, Henry Phoya as Leader of the house but constitutional matters seem to be hitting the headlines almost everyday. Section 65 of the constitution is at the centre stage. The President recently said that she does not have money with which to hold by elections.

Certainly the country will not compromise its laws because of poverty.

Talk of the great first 100 days? Bakili Muluzi had it all but messed up later.

There have been a lot of whispers in Joyce Banda’s first 100 days but these are just her first 100 days, she still has 638 days to put things straight, a thing we believe she will do.

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