This point in President Joyce Banda’s life could, probably, have been entranced by visions, images, and dreams that connected her to this new-found destiny.
After all, these aspects of life have become some of the natural ways of coming into touch with new regions of oneself, and discovering revealing connections with the future.
While it may sound strange for the people of Zomba, President Banda's home district- especially those from Traditional Authority Malemia- to claim that they shared similar visions, images, and dreams with the daughter of their own soil just two months ago, it would be equally baffling if these people did not now share something in common with her: joy and happiness.
This (joy) is what we found in abundance when we visited Zomba on Friday in our quest to ‘catch’ the people's feelings on the ascendancy of Banda to the highest office in the land.
Group Village Headman Kapwepwe, one of the traditional leaders who stood with Banda during her trying times, talks about how the President’s days after being booted out of the Democratic Progressive Party were just this huge battle of who could get the most favours from government among chiefs, because there was so little faith Banda could one day rise.
“Some of us suffered a lot because people were associating us with her when she formed her own party. Just imagine that I have never been given the cloak given to chiefs simply because I was deemed anti-government. Government officials also reduced the number of coupons I am entitled to from 296 in 2010/11 agriculture season to 41 this year. All this was happening because I knew that, with her heart, she would get to the high office of President one day,” Kapwepwe says.
All this happened to him because of the interview he granted to reporters from Joy Fm. This was after the late Senior Chief Chikowi had told public media that all the people of Zomba were supporting DPP’s Peter Mutharika’s presidential ambitions.
“I said ‘No’; that is not true. There are people here who support Banda. And they started victimising me,” Kapwepwe said.
Among other things, Kapwepwe said Banda has done a lot for the people, and points to Mafufuni mosque, a borehole at the mosque, revolving fund initiatives and agriculture schemes, the distribution of cellphones, and the provision of fertiliser coupons bought with her money to chiefs every year as some of the notable achievements.
“She also opened a free secondary school called Msigalira Joyce Banda Foundation where students learn for free, receive free school uniforms and food. She is a caring woman who wants people to be educated and find what they need in life,” Kapwepwe adds.
For Laikia Kusinyala, 36, Banda’s position is nothing more than a mark of hope.
She expects her to drill more boreholes, apart from one she drilled at Mafufuni Mosque, construct feeder roads for cassava farmers, and improve the status of women.
“We also need improvements in the education sector. Our children, especially small ones, travel long distances to go to Nyani Pamtondo Primary. I also hope that the Farm Inputs Subsidy Programme will continue,” Kusinyala said.
She spoke as if she had read the mind of Paulo Salim, a 31-year-old we found a kilometre away. Salim, like Kusinyala, was happy that a daughter of Zomba had become the Malawi leader.
Salim said people knew Banda as a hardworker, pointing at development projects she introduced as Member of Parliament for Zomba-Malosa.
“We have benefitted a lot from her sanitation, education, and health initiatives. In fact, Msigalira Health Centre will be opened before the end of 2012, and we hope that this will reduce maternal mortality and morbidity rates,” Salim said.
He asked the President to promote rural electrification, and make sure that “those who live in darkness are connected to the national electricity grid”.
Blood is thicker than water
Banda is so many things to so many people. President, business woman, gender rights activist, Southern Africa’s first woman president, the list goes on. To Vera Malamusi, 29, the president is her aunt.
“She has been like a mother to me: Caring, loving, concerned, and helpful. She has always helped me in so many ways; she is educating my son, who is doing Form 2 at Msigalira Joyce Banda Foundation. Without that chance, my son would have dropped out of school by now. We also have many other people who have benefitted from her charitable works,” Malamusi said.
You would think that, being niece to the First Citizen, Malamusi will be among the chosen few to benefit from Banda. She says ‘No’; Banda is different, she cares for all.
“What surprises me about President Banda is that, often, she helps people who are not related to her first, before shifting her attention to relatives who are in need of help. This only shows that she doesn’t practice favouritism, and treats all people equally,” Malamusi added.
These, workers at the President’s Domasi home said, Malamusi’s speeches are punctuated by smiles. She could be so overwhelmed with her Aunt’s rise to prominence
She pays in time!
MacLoud Nyamuka, 28, has been working for Banda since 2004. He talks of her as an honest employer.
“She has never delayed my salary. Actually, I am paid by the 21st or 22nd of every month, which only shows what a virtuous woman she is. Nyamuka said.
He did not end there; he asked to excuse himself.
“Please, allow me to speak as a Malawian, and not her worker now. So, I will not be speaking as her worker when I say she is a caring individual. She treats all people equally. The one thing about her is that she is a philanthropist, who values human life and dignity,” he said.
All this, Nyamuka feels, is a foundation she has built for herself; one that will help her solve Malawi’s challenges.
The nature of women
Maulana Fulaide, 54, is so happy that, finally, a female President is in charge.
“Women are, by nature, caring individuals who listen to people’s concerns. That is why she has been able to respond to the socio-economic problems facing Zomba-Malosa constituency.
“Because of her, we drink portable water ; poor and vulnerable children have been handed a lifeline to continue with their education, and; women are respected here, instead of being abused. This is because of her example. Men know that, if given a chance, women can do a lot for their communities and contribute towards the development of their areas.
“Ever since I came to know her, in 2006, I have come to appreciate her more and more. Malawians, I think, are blessed,” he said.
Ronnie Kazembe, 43, could not agree more.
“Her pro-poor projects here, including Msigalira Joyce Banda Foundation, have revolutionalised this area. I am a mother of four children, two of them learn for free at Msigalira.
“I also know of orphans, including one I look after, who have benefitted a lot from her charitable projects. She has been feeding them. She has been dressing them, by providing school uniforms, and these children will now have the opportunity to sleep on beds and mattresses because these items have just arrived at the school,” Kazembe said.
Asked what she could do for the area if she were elected President of the Republic of Malawi, Kazembe said:” I would establish revolving funds for women engaged in small scale trade. We all know that the HIV and AIDS pandemic has left women in a precarious situation because they now combine care-giving to their everyday chores. Women need money to improve their lives now more than ever before.
“I would also establish more health centres. It is good that Msigalira Health Centre will be opened soon, but women in other villages need similar facilities. I ensure hospitals have medical drugs because having a beautiful health facility is one thing, and stocking it with medicine (is) yet another thing.”
Banda, like Kazembe, is a woman. It may be that she also appreciates these things.
It was all happiness and hopes for the people of Malosa on Friday. Those from such villages as Machinjiri, Mtogolo, Minama, Chupi, and Kasonga said, with Banda in tow, Malawi was enjoying a good spell of luck.
Is this (sentiment) prophetic, with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank re-opening those closed doors for us? Time is a just judge.