Friday, April 6, 2012

Looking Beyond Bingu wa Mutharika: Joyce Banda's Two Headaches

After the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Bright Msaka, officially announces that President Bingu wa Mutharika is dead this noon (in less than 10 minutes' time), the burden will shift to Vice-President, and President-designate Joyce Banda.
From nowhere. there will be a shift of, not only power, but headaches from the late Mutharika to Banda, wife to former Chief Justice Richard Banda.
Before he died, Mutharika had headaches, some of which include the decision of whether to devalue the Malawi Kwacha (as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank officials have asked), or perish in the lonesome, prodigal economic way.
The rural masses are against devaluation. For example, during Capital FM's 'Mau Akumudzi' programme- produced and presented by the accomplished Timothy Kateta- Thursday evening this week, constituents from business magnet, Felton Mulli's constituency in Southern Malawi, decried government's decision to devalue the local currency by 10 percent in August 2011.
That decision sent commodity prices flying in all directions.
The constituents were unanimous in their riles against devaluation, asking the governing authorities not bend to IMF and World Bank implorations to take he Kwacha down the slope again.
"I would even appreciate it if the government le the Kwacha appreciate. In the village here, we are buying sugar at K500, instead of K214, said one of the constituents who identified herself as Esther.
Now, Joyce Banda will have to decide whether to devalue or perish.
If she devalues the Malawi Kwacha, she will face the wrath of Malawians while pleasing the Bretonwoods institutions. So, commodity prices will rise, but that will be cushioned by donor inflows.
That is Banda's first headache.
The second headache, and this one applies to Malawians, too.
In 2004, President Bingu wa Mutharika took over from Bakili Muluzi on he United Democratic Front (UDF).
Unexpectedly, Mutharika dumped the UDF to form his own Democratic Progressive Party (DPP). In so doing, he made history for himself and Malawi. He became the first African president to "go into governmet in order to form a political paty" instead of the norm when "you form a political party in order to go into government" as former National Assembly Speake, Sam Mpasu, says.
In 2009, Mutharika has the opportunity to legitimise the 'reign' of the DPP through the polls, and he did so "overwhelmingly"- becoming, according to Malawi Electoral Commission records, the first President in Democratic Malawi to whip fellow Presidential contenders by over half a million votes.
So, the DPP has been 'legitimately' ruling since May 2009.
But the DPP, just like the UDF on February 5, 2005 (when Mutharika dished the UDF during an Anti-Corruption commemoration day in Malawi's capital, Lilongwe) now faces the unexpected: the prospect of being booted out of  power to pave way for Joyce Banda and, in effect, her People's Party (PP).
Malawi, again, will be in the news. The PP will become the second political party in democratic Malawi and Africa to go into 'power' without passing thrugh the ballot.
The headache for Banda is: Will she take the PP with her, and make it Malawi's unelected ruling party, or she will leave the PP out of governing politics up until May 2014?
But that, going into government as an independent President,   will irk PP followers, whom will take her as ungrateful.
These are the two immediate headaches for Banda.

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