The Copy and Paste President in Malawi


ll indications are that civil society activists left out in the cold without any appointment into Public Service Offices have had enough.  The gloves have been coming out slowly and it now looks the battlefield is demarcated where revolutionary campaign to tarnish Joyce Banda administration is in an advanced stage.

Leading the pack is a self-styled human rights activist, Ben Chiza Mkandawire, who successfully managed to shake the feet of clay of the former deceased President Dr. Bingu wa Mutharika. Ben has an impeccable, energetic and fearless record of standing up to his apparent enemies driven by conscientious conviction of injustice in the land.    He is a federalist in political thinking and has driven this message in length and breadth of his political lectures to the masses that admire him.

Like Dr. Banda in 1958, he returned from London to take the center stage in the fight against the overly corrupt and divisive government that was at war with its own people on economic mismanagement. Malawi was an economy in death-bed.  He was arrested and detained for being a political public nuisance while staging a four-man band demonstration with a placard that said Bingu was a Dictator.

g people who admire his political credentials, his overseas stay, British tertiary education but mainly his straightforward tongue. He is a voice of robust political debate that has earned him both friends and enemies across the political spectrum.

Chiza Mkandawire: Activism

He described the leaders of divided Civil Society as cowards and sell-outs after mass demonstration strategy was abandoned following the deadly demonstration on 20th July 2011 where 19 people were shot dead in cold blood by security forces. Kamuzu Chibambo of PETRA was once described as a mouse without a backbone.

Chiza has motor-mouth. One cannot avoid likening him to Julius Malema, the suspended leader of the ANC Youth League in South Africa who spared nobody in his vitriolic attacks on his political opponent who dared challenge his views. The only difference being that our activist is highly educated in prestigious British Schools. From his mouth, he holds a Law Degree from Hurdsfield University and currently completing a post graduate qualification. Make no mistake, the man is well read. His constituency knows him as somebody who suspended his ambitious high profile career prospects in UK to lead the youth of Malawi face  Mutharika’s oppressive regime.  He achieved that with flying colors.

Joyce Banda on the other hand rose from ashes. She was in political wilderness while serving as the country’s Vice President. Thanks to Mutharika’s ruthless and manipulative politics that saw her sidelined and stripped of all executive powers except for a title and salary. She was vulnerable. In those days, the Civil Society mounted a stiff defense for her.

Came 5th April 2012,  Bingu sadly died of cardiac arrest. His inner-circle Cabinet embarked on elaborate plan to hide death while trying to by-pass the Constitution of the Republic on succession in case of incapacitation or death of the sitting president. The rest is history, what is not history is the support that Civil Society gave to Joyce Banda camp to make sure that she takeover the mantles of power. It happened three days later.

Political risks deserve political rewards.

Unfortunately, she inherited the government that was technically bankrupt. When it came to reorganize the Government, she was forced to cut down a number of portfolios or amalgamate them in an effort to cuts costs. Today, the Vice President, Hon Khumbo Kachali, is also serving as the Minister of Health. The Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Hon Ralph Kasambara, is also Attorney General. The President herself also serves in other lower capacities.

Those that had supported Joyce Banda had already moistened their lips. They were ready for deployment into government offices. It never happened that way and not everybody is excited any more.

This brief background describes the potholes and possible dangers the current administration has to wade through to remain popular.

First test came when seasoned Members of Parliament who know which side of bread is buttered read the letters on the wall. They damped the party that had sponsored them into power when the leader died and even before he was buried. This act of floor-crossing   by the lawmakers is in clear violation of the Malawi’s Republican Constitution Section 65. Their seats had to be declared vacant.

The second test came when the very first siting of Parliament, it was revealed that the Minister of Finance had previously lied to the nation. He had denied knowing that Malawi Revenue Authority (MRA) had borrowed money from commercial banks to prop up its tax collection standing. The Civil Society wanted nothing but the Minister’s head as first prize. It never happened. The commission of enquiry, appoint by the President, headed by the Vice President cleared his involvement. He genuinely was misled.

The third test was the repeal of the law that prohibited same sex marriages.  This law put Malawi in the international newsrooms when Malawi Court sentenced a gay couple to jail. There was enormous international outcry especially those that support the country with financial aid such as UK, US, Germany. The repeal set the Joyce Banda administration against religious communities who branded the government as ‘Donor-fearing nation’ as opposed to being God fearing.

In summary, Jobs, MRA saga, Gay-Marriages, Floor-Crossing of MPs. These issues have been simmering in the background.

It is in this context thatChiza Mkandawire has resurfaced with vigour and political vitality to speak openly against the government that he was willing to die for only yesterday.

On 6th July, the Day Malawi celebrates Independence, Ben post a dry message. He wrote on his Facebook wall:

‘Ralph Kasambara and his mother Joyce Banda are fooling Malawians that they have reduced oil prices when it’s the world markets dictating it.’

Thus referring to announcement of price reduction on Diesel, Petrol and Paraffin. On the same day, he fired another missile, he wrote:

‘Joyce Banda has less than two weeks to declare her assets; before she does it would be appropriate to have her foundation independently audited for all the financial gifts she made. Time to act right ma’am’

If it was written by any other uninformed person outside Civil Society, nobody would have taken note of this status that aims to blow the whistle while standing on ridicule.

One wonders if Ben is not talking from a well-informed position that suggests that Joyce Banda is unduly enriching herself and channeling the spoils to her Foundation, Joyce Banda Foundation. We may choose to look aside and reduce it as sick freedom of expression from a distraught firebrand activist, but perception is power especially when such perceptions and created by those well-informed.

Joyce Banda argues that petty politics should not derail the government’s effort to stabilize the country’s economy which was in the intensive care unit. Her critics view this as undermining the Rule of Law. Clearing the house of DPP left-overs would surely have created the space for new blood.

In understanding the bigger picture of the lead activist, Ben is said to be in serious financial position. In UK he survived on his girlfriend, Ms. Bella Kalua. She has since returned home. That he once entered University door and obtained a Law Degree is one of the seven wonders of the world.

His current status in Malawi is that of an ‘Executive Parasite’ on his longtime friend, Mbumba Banda, the Chief Executive Officer of the leading media house Nation Publications Limited. He enjoyed unprecedented publicity in his defiance campaigns against Bingu regime. To what extent he manipulates the paper’s thinking is something for the future.

*Writing in his personal capacity, the author: JC Mbele is Malawi’s own entrepreneur, resident in South Africa, with business interests in Malawi, South Africa and China. Early this year, he dropped a bombshell in an exclusive interview with Capital FM Straight Talk, when he revealed Malawi’s single largest corporate collusion in which his company was misled and suffered MWK320m loss in the Telecommunication deal by Dr Chikaonda and Hitesh Anadkat Directors of TNM.

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