Timau: Is Joyce Banda an inspirational leader?

Boma la Amayi– in English, literally means, Mummies’ government. However, in Malawi, this Chichewa (the national language) phrase means Joyce Banda’s administration.

When Boma la Amayi hit 100 days, we all celebrated together with Amayi but today, 6 months down the line, a lot has happened.

As bizarre as it might be, it has come to our attention that government has, on occasion, over promised and under delivered: Freely translated: they overestimated results and underestimated costs.

Dr Jessie Kabwila-Kapasula, a university lecturer and social activist was quoted in the media trashing Banda’s leadership style as not inspiring enough for Malawian women to harbour the ambitions of holding the position of high office. Is this true?

The Timau crew will now take a look at Kabwila-Kapasula’s annotations, and, also some pertinent issues slowly sowing seeds of ultimate destruction in Boma la Amayi.

President Banda

 Declaring Assets

Why is President Joyce Banda not declaring her assests as has been the norm in a multiparty Malawi?  Ordinarily, the question is harmless and simple because, in actuality, Amai  has satisfied the constitutional requirement in regard to asset declaration. There is no legal obligation on her to declare her asset publicly, bear in mind that this is not coming from us but her legal advisor, the Attorney General (AG). She already did it when she was vice President, argues HE’s legal advisor.

So, she has not violated any section of the Constitution concludes the AG. To some point the AG is very right; it is not the President declaring her assets that will change the country. But if looked at from another angle one sees that she has to do it. She did it in 2009 as Vice President and this is 2012, she is President, a lot has happened in between. Moreover, it is such things that are the road maps aimed at achieving true democracy.

Since this statement on assets declaration was made by the Attorney General, a Tsunami of anger has swept through the nation and it has broughtPresident Banda into disrepute. We see no reason why the President could not just tell people how much she is worth. And this is where trouble began, Ben Chiza Mkandawire came in. Mind you, he was silent all through. Mkandawire saw an opening through the assets issue and jumped on it. His clatter echoed in the ears of the donor community.

“President Banda and her legal advisors have become judges who explain the constitution to suit their biased interests which is a threat to democracy, good governance and fair business and political competition,” said Mkandawire.

Why do governments leave things to sour? What is the fuss in simply saying: this is what I am worth? In Liberia, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf suspended her son and 45 other government officials after they failed to declare their assets to anti-corruption authorities.

Without giving a specified time frame for the protests, Mkandawire claimed that “all human rights activists, vendors, business persons and civil servants, will hold mass demonstrations against what he calls rising levels of corruption in the current administration.” These are the kind of scenes we did not want to associate with Boma la Amayi.

Is the issue of asset declaration a matter of principle? Maybe the AG may wish to clarify.

 Press Freedom

In America there is a clause which states that; “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech or of the press…”

So the Constitution guarantees a free press, which can be extrapolated to include all news media – TV, radio, the web, etc. But what do we mean by a free press? Primarily, press freedom means the news media are not subject to censorship by the government. In other words, the government does not have the right to try to control or block certain things from being published by the press. To the contrary, journalists should also be aware that irresponsible journalism is not accepted at all. As a result of their partisan journalism encroached by poverty members of the media are subjected to serious pressure exerted upon them by the government or the police over the stories that they write. This paradoxical situation partly stems from the media structure where owners are engaged in politics and the structure plays an important role in influencing members of the media when it comes to what to write and what not to write.

On the other hand, government should stop viewing its citizens as enemies. Let people write what they want and government get on with normal management business, and this brings us to the point when President Banda was being persecuted by the DPP government, she was best friend of the media. And indeed, she made her displeasure known to the world through the media. When President Banda called for a commission of inquiry on the death of polytechnic student, Robert Chasowa, amongst the many reasons was that she felt deeply touched as a mother and she put herself in the shoes of Chasowa’s mother. We are now stunned as to why a 27 year old young journalist was put in custody. As a mother, did President Banda not empathise with this young man’s mother?

President Banda should accept one thing: people will write and talk about her but she should never get emotional.  She has several press officers. What are their responsibilities?  Was it not part of their job descriptions to counteract on such attacks from marauding journalists? Again, the donor community is watching very closely on such acts. When they withhold aid a poor Malawian will be affected. Individuals must not bear the cost of government errors.

Set an Example

There is a thin line between a good leader and an inspirational leader. A leader has ‘vision’, as well as an understanding of strategy, the use of power and drive, while an inspirational leader goes beyond all this and achieves more. What maketh an inspirational leader?-People who have the passion and zeal to do something different and have the power to encourage people to follow? (ww.slideshare.net) Does Joyce Banda not have all this?

However, Jessie Kabwila stirred the hornets’ nest and incurred the wrath of a cross section of People’s Party supporters when she claimed that Joyce Banda is not an inspirational leader. She claims that Banda is not up to it. We shelve this for your on future debate.

We, the Timau Crew will give President Joyce Banda a tip to make herself inspirational. Putting the economy back on track is the president’s responsibility. To ensure that there is adequate security for Malawians is on her job description but to accept and foster democratic tools like freedom of speech for all is one big thing her predecessors failed to do.

President Banda aught to have a thick skin and let people say or write what they want. Let Malawi be a place were people can talk and write whatever they want freely. Freedom of speech is important to Malawian citizens because it gives them the ability to speak out against the government and any other institution, within reason. President Banda will make a massive step forward if she will let freedom of opinion and expression thrive hence she will leave behind her a huge legacy.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, states that:

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

President Banda should be familiar with the fact that the only way to get new ideas and improvements on the status quo is to be able to question the status quo, no matter how offensive her government might find it. Even hate speech has a place: when we hear it, we can fight against it and make our own arguments stronger. It is our hope that the government, together with the rest of society will nourish our freedom (speech and press) perhaps to the same level as the British from whom we learned the principles of democracy.

We want Boma la Amayi to totally bring to end the harassment of Malawians with opposing views by party cadres in full view of the police. Shift away from the dirty tactics used by the past regimes.

That way, President Joyce Banda will set her on legacy.

We, the Timau Crew are dreaming of a Malawi where we will have an enlightened government that will allow freedom in communication, criticism, change and growth and that the government will always remember that by restricting such freedoms to avoid criticism to preserve a static condition, they are actually sowing the seeds of ultimate destruction.

President Joyce Banda should not copy from others. Let her set an   example so that the Kabwila’s of this world can sit down and say, “Look, what an inspirational leader Malawi has”.

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