An entrepreneur, activist, politician, and philanthropist, Dr. Joyce Banda was Malawi’s first female president (2012-2014) and Africa’s second. Dr. Joyce Banda is a champion for the rights of women, children, the disabled, and other marginalized groups. Banda's most brazen decisions have been for austerity's sake. She sold off a $15 million presidential jet, cut her own salary by 30% and dismissed her cabinet in the midst of corruption allegations. Her austerity's measures have helped lift monetary suspensions from Western donors to Malawi and restore cash injections from the IMF. Deep discussion on Zoom (social network) with Dr. Joyce Banda, a natural born leader.

Africa has had 5 women president, what about the other continents?

Interview: Dr. Joyce Banda, A Natural Born Leader (Malawi)

An entrepreneur, activist, politician, and philanthropist, Dr. Joyce Banda was Malawi’s first female president (2012-2014) and Africa’s second. Dr. Joyce Banda is a champion for the rights of women, children, the disabled, and other marginalized groups. Banda's most brazen decisions have been for austerity's sake. She sold off a $15 million presidential jet, cut her own salary by 30% and dismissed her cabinet in the midst of corruption allegations. Her austerity's measures have helped lift monetary suspensions from Western donors to Malawi and restore cash injections from the IMF. Deep discussion on Zoom (social network) with Dr. Joyce Banda, a natural born leader.

Priscilla Wolmer: In these unprecedented times of the Covid-19 pandemic, how is Malawi faring with its 3 000 cases? 

Dr. Joyce Banda: We are winning but we are also very grateful for the support that we are receiving. There is an initiative at the African Union, in Ethiopia. The special envoy try to assist Malawi as quickly as possible. Africa Rising Bank has offered a special fund for Covid-19 but also masks, protective clothing, and help to increase the ability to test many people.

Malawi, from february to June, only had 4 people died and about 200 cases.

Malawi thought we had reached the peak of the crisis. Then in April and May, we started receiving returnees from other countries, particularly from South Africa. And with the opening of borders, we are seeing an increase in the number of cases. This rapid spread and lack of ability to restrict the movement of returnees,_ the majority of whom are infected_, has led to an increase in the number of patients. It is at a stage where government is having a lot of initiative now, social distancing, restriction, quarantine, capacity in hospital with medical staff. 

Priscilla Wolmer: Lazarus Chakwera, the president, elected at the end of June and former pastor of the Assemblies of God, has recently declared three days of fasting and prayer to stem the spread of the virus. What do you think about this?

Dr. Joyce Banda: That is Malawi!

We are a very spiritual and religious nation

Praying does not prevent us from observing the barrier gestures.

Prayers matters in our country

Priscilla Wolmer: The opposition is accusing the government for relaxing the law during campaigns and negative messages on Covid-19. What are your comments?

Dr. Joyce Banda:  I don't like getting into controversy with politics. Why? Thi is the same period when expatriates started to be away from South Africa. So if you come to the country, depends on who you're talking to. If you talk to the government, they will say that the reopening of the borders with South Africa has caused this situation. And about the electoral campaign that opponents criticize, it happened between January and June when infection had reached 200 people. So when did the campaign affect the crisis we are going through now?

Priscilla Wolmer: Let's get back to your incredible journey!

Priscilla Wolmer: When did you step into your leadership role and how do you describe your leadership style?

Dr. Joyce Banda: I have always had a leadership role in my life!

I have always had a leadership role in my life!

Because if you're talking about the leadership role in politics, I don't know where to start. I've always known that. As I have always studied. I suggest you look in the book entitled: "Leaders are born". As far as I'm concerned and it's a scientific endorsement, and you can go online and read it, they say that people were born with a 30% leadership trait. The remaining 70% must be added by the company. By going to school, by personal education, mentaly. The 70% for you to become the leader you want to be. So I know.

I knew at 18 that I was born to be a leader

I knew that they always told me that there is something special about me.

If you ask Ellen Sirleaf, former President in Liberia, she will tell you the same. Most of the women president in Africa, I mean, most of women leaders will tell you that they knew for a long time that they going to be leaders. 

So if you look at what I have championed in my life. With all of that, I have imaged my personal experience. So it just happened automatically. 

When I was 14, I had a best friend. She went to the village school. I went to urban school. She was brighter than me. First position each class, we were both selected to the best high school. She went to another school. She did a term, she didn't come back because the family was so poor that they couldn't pay the $6 she needed to go back to school. I went on and on because I had the privilege of having my father working. So it was at the age of 14 that I became aware of the injustice of this world. 

There are so many girls in Africa, 39 millions, who don't go to school. So I always knew that when a little girl is given the right opportunities, the right education, she could become a leader. I always knew that. So I always look how I could help others. When Chrissy, my best friend didn't go back to school, I met up my mind at 14 years old that I will spent my life to help other girls to go to school. 

As I speak to you, 6,500 girls are in school education thanks to the actions I have taken

Priscilla Wolmer: What has been your biggest challenge as a woman leader? You are a reference for your feminist struggle in a society dominated by men. From your experiences as Female leader, what advice would you give to an emerging woman leader in Africa?

Dr. Joyce Banda: The challenges are many. Men abuses a lot and not only in Africa. It's concerned women all over the world. What I can say is that what is important now it's for all african women to realize that somebody has to do it. We can't chicken out, we can't shy away because we having a lot of challenges. Those of us who are in leadership in the women's movement, we must speak without fear. We all it to all those that are the voiceless in our part of the world. The challenges that human face to enter Politics are patriarchal. Two, Economic capacity to compete equally wise men in order to go to Parliament. Number three, the harrasment that we get must be denounced to the media. So fourth, we will find that most girls doesn't have home model. And five, it's political view. You find in other countries the government has put in place measures to support women, to stand for elected office or affinitive actions to support women into leadership. But I must point out before I go far, that African has done more than other continent, in term of women in leadership.

Historically, we were leaders already. We were Princess, we were Queens, we were Emperors beyond the continent of Africa before colonization and, Africa has had five female president. In Liberia, Malawi, Central African Republic, Mauritius and now Ethiopia.

FEMALE LEADERS IN AFRICA

Tell me how many woman president America has had? Tell me for others countries. So what I'am saying is that we don't want to discourage ourselves by saying things are not working. Yes, things are working. We must  withdraw our strenght and we must be proud of what we have achieved. 

Africa has had 5 women president, what about the other continents?

We were leaders over nations before colonization. While women are still struggling to find their place in parliaments, Rwanda is an exception. With more than 63% women in the Chamber of Deputies, the country is at the top of the world rankings.

We were Princess, we were Queens, we were Emperors beyond the continent of Africa before colonization

Priscilla Wolmer: Media reports that during your days there was much plunder of finances and continued till the reign of Peter Mutharika. There have been several arrests already since Dr. Chakwera took over. What is your opinion?

Dr. Joyce Banda:  The plunder in government did not start in 2012, when I became president. It started in 2005.

The plunder in government did not start in 2012 (...) It started in 2005

In 2005, a new financial management system was instored in government and so since then, before I became president, we have already report that show that $300 600 000 was stolen.

I may sure that if you're still under my watch, when Iam in office, you can be sure you are going to go to prison. During my term, 72 peoples were arrested. Dr. Chakwera decided is going to do the same that I have done. Now, he is in office and he will not allow anybody, just like I have not allowed anybody to stole.

This government decided that anybody who try to stole money shall pay for it and should go to jail. What I'am being told is that the amount of money that is missing is huge. And it is my wish that president Chakwera, the vice-president, and this government continue to go to after those people that are designated to have stolen. It is possible some of the money is around or even that which is externalized to be on the road back to Malawi.

Priscilla Wolmer: This is the reason why you support him? 

Lazarus Chakwera

Dr. Joyce Banda: Number one promise was to fight corruption; number two was to observe the rule of law; number three was to be fair to all Malawians. 

Priscilla Wolmer: In May 2019, Lazarus Chakwera redjected the official results which, with just 160,000 votes behind, gave the victory to incumbent President Peter Mutharika. Nine months later, he succeeded in having the ballot canceled because of "massive fraud". On June twenty third, he was finally able to take his revenge by winning 58,57 % of the vote at the end of an unprecedented streak in sub-Saharan Africa - only Kenya had so far experienced an election thus replayed, in 2017, but without change of 'issue. This courage of the Constitutional Court demonstrates the enormous progress of Malawi, what more do you expect from your country? What are the big challenges Malawi faces?

Dr. Joyce Banda: The challenges Malawi faces today are related to the state of life of Malawians. Poverty because of the money that was stolen. The president's first agenda is to give people hope that things will go well. Implementing most of the program to accelerate the implementation of farm incomes.

He promised Malawians to show reforms to the government structure, the government system. He also promised Malawians that he would fight poverty. He will therefore observe the rule of law, strong institutions. Ensures that it will not interfere with the management of the anti-corruption office, as well as in the affairs of Parliament.

Priscilla Wolmer: Sorry to interrupt you but you only talk about hope and hope but what is the strategy behind?

Dr. Joyce Banda: The president has been in office for only 3 weeks! Number one on that list is to fight corruption but you are the one that was told me that he already started arresting people. So when you give people hope and when you start doing what you promessed. For example, right now, they have already made orders for the fertilizers to provide farmers. They already started meetings on the reforming the civil service in Malawi. So it's a clear indication that he is implementing the program. 

Priscilla Wolmer: Is there anything else you would like to share that hasn't been addressed?

Dr. Joyce Banda: Yes, when people take office, especially after they've hesitated to fight. This is an unprecedented challenge. This had never happened in Malawi or anywhere else in Africa. Yet this is not the first time that elections have been stolen. Now, what I mean is that the world, especially Africa, must remember the lesson of Malawi. When you are the head of a state, you must never take people for granted.

Leaders can no longer abuse their people, otherwise they will collapse

Our judicial system is not corrupt! We have reorganized elections in just 4 weeks without foreign observers. This election is credible. What happened here in Malawi proves that election candidates can count on ordinary people. Leaders can no longer abuse their people, otherwise they will collapse.

Power has shifted to ordinary people

Power has shifted to ordinary people. Whoever wants to be arrogant and autocratic with his people will fall by that same people. Remember what just happened in Malawi.

Priscilla Wolmer: We hope that this could happen in other African countries where some heads of state are abusing their power.

 

Priscilla Wolmer
Directrice de la rédaction