Malawi's Vice-President,Joyce Banda, has been in close contact with the President of Liberia,Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, since February 3, 2009 and the two have now agreed to support each other materially, technically and financially.
The first one to benefit from the two women leaders' agreement - a 12-paged document Zachimalawi is in possession of- is Malawi's Banda.
The Agreement form has four articles, namely: Article 1, which covers three pages, and sets conditions and grounds for financial support; Article 2, specifying modalities for technical support; Article 3, which lays the grounds for material support; and Article 4, describing conditions for termination of agreement. This article cites such grounds as retirement from active politics, incapacipation 'of any terminal nature, and, in which case, it must be proved to be permanent', dishonesty or any acts that may be deemed, in the eyes of right thinking members of society, to be inhuman and against accepted moral principles, among others.
According to Article 1 (6) of Joyce Banda and Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf's agreement, which deals with financial support, Banda will receive US$160, 000 in financial support. The Agreement documents specifically indicates that the first chunk (US$40, 000) will be received by jULY 12, 2011.
Article 1 (8) then specifically sets conditions for utilisation, clearly indicating that the funds "benefit individual citizens, and not party or personal affairs".
In the spirit of the Agreement, 'benefit (ting) individual citizens' shall mean: (a) Any programmes targeting the less-previleged members in society, including the ultra-poor, people affected by disasters, orphans and vulnerable children; (b) Any programmes or activities that may improve he social-economic status of citizens, including revolving funds at 0% interest rate, to be repaid monthly in US$10 bits; (c) and any initiatives that may help aspiring women Members of Parliament and Presidents earn seed capital for political campagning, or the advancement of women development causes.
It is clearly spelled, also, that, in cases of revolving funds and Zero-interest loans, the maximum amount be K200, 000.
The document, signed on June 20, 2009- the day it became effective- and whose validity ends on June 20, 2016- has many other provisions describing effective campaign strategies, but emphasises on tools that do not discriminate against men, members of other political parties, and undecided members of society, further advising that these groups represent a potential pool of 'massive support, and, if well-exploited, could result in changing voting trends. Just emphasise on common reasoning grounds, public sympathy, development gaps, stereotypes against public officials, and the surprise factor.
Now, it seems that Banda has started putting some of the recommendations in the Agreement into practice. Though the Agreement is silent on forming a political party, Banda is already in the process of registering one (People's Party).
As if signaling her seriousness, Banda has ropped in former United Democratic Front (UDF) Campaign Director, Clement Stambuli. Former Justice Minister Paul Maulidi is also one of the officials.
Maulidi threatened to sue journalist Chancy Namadzunda in early March this year, accusing the Lilongwe-based reporter of sneaking into his (Maulidi's) office and 'stealing' names of People's Party officials- a development Maulidi said (speaking to Namadzunda, in the presence of this reporter) could jeorpadise his position in the party since party officials would begin to treat him with suspicions, 'thinking I leak information to members of the press.
All this just points to the fact that Banda's zealots and working on the ground, making sure that Banda's party becomes not only another 'brief case' player on the political map, but a formidable entity, one that poses a real threat to President Bingu wa Mutharika's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
When DPP fired Banda (who was DPP's first vice-president) and Khumbo Kachali, then the party's second-vice president, people thought it was the end of the two officials political paths.
Others argued, however, that it could be a sign of cracks emerging in the DPP, following sentiments of top party officials who have made it clear that they will support nobody else but Bingu wa Mutharika's younger brother, Peter.
Bingu's term (the second, and, according to the Malawi Constitution, maximum one can serve in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) member state) expires in May 2014.
But Banda has shown to be a woman of strong will. She even went to the extent of describing Peter Mutharika as a 'non political starter' in February 2011, challenging him to the thrown at the New State House and Sanjika Palace come 2014.
In following up to the Agreement signed with Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Banda is leaving no stone unturned. The Vice-President of the Republic of Malawi has established 210 committees throughout the country.
The aim of the committees, Zachimalawi understands, is to help in the disbursement of funds to women, men and other vulnerable groups.
In Zomba, for instance, Mary Sauzande-Kalinde is one of the women registering would-be beneficiaries.
She told Zachimalawi on Wednesday that, so far, 780 women have already registered for loans in Zomba.
In Balaka, Patricia Mable Kuzimva, the chairperson for the Joyce Banda (Zero-Interest) Revolving Fund said "many people are flocking to us; in fact, we have already registered 3000 people wishing to obtain loans. People are really grateful to Hon. Joyce Banda for her visionary instincts".
It seems that, all over Malawi, Joyce Banda is slowly connecting with the people's needs, and slowly gaining ground.
Joyce Banda has also won the hearts of many women in Ndirande, as many women are flocking to register for loans in both Ndirande Central Constituency and Ndirande-Malabada.
So far, in the two constituencies, 5,438 women and 2,521 men have registered for the loans whose disbursement date is said to be between September 1 and December 15, 2011.
Loan disbursement will then start again on 19 February, 2011.
THe loans' repayment period is one year, with three months grace period.
Banda is not new in the loan disbursement business. In fact, she is the founder of the National Association for Business Women (NABW), an organisation that won national acclaim for pulling women out of the puddle of poverty.
Many Malawian women were able to wear off their 'goal-keeper' tag (those women who act as goal-keepers, waiting for the husband to bring everything, a trend perpetuated by deep-rooted cultural stereotypes) and stand on themselves economically and socially.
This economic emancipation coincided with an intensive gender activism campaign that has but changed the status of women in Malawian society; at least, the town-dwellling woman.
In Malawi's rural areas, the husband (and thus father) is still very much the patriarch; worshipped more than revered, feared more than respected.
This, naturally, has led people to wonder whether the country is ready for a woman president. DPP regional governor for the Eastern Region, Noel Masangwi, riled people late last year when he enthused, (spoke, rather publicly) than Malawi was not ready for a woman president.
Masangwi immediately drew fire from all quarters of society, including from unfamiliar quarters- Presidential spokesperson, and DPP spokesperson, Dr. Hetherwick Ntaba. The 'Talking Computer' Ntaba said its estranged governor's sentiments did not represent views of the DPP, and that Masangwi was speaking in his personal capacity.
Less than three months later, Joyce Banda was out of the party: fired by the party's National Governing Council, which was chaired by President Bingu wa Mutharika.
The reasons for Banda's (and not Masangwi's) firing were simple, in the words of former Finance Minister Goodall Gondwe: Joyce Banda and Khumbo Kachali were been putting in place parallel party structures. Not only getting rid of established party structures, but relacing them with their own!
As of now, Banda is on the ground, working; only that his party is not yet in the books. It is yet to be registered.
But the DPP has shown to be an intolerant party, looking at how it has frustrated (through the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties) the registration of political parties whose founders are known government bashers.
Will Joyce Banda get her way? Malawians wait with abated breath.