From Monday to yesterday afternoon, Sheikh Jean-Philippe LePoisson, Native Authority Mandela, Abiti Joyce Befu, and I had a whistle stop tour of Dedza district. We preferred to spend more time in more remote areas than we did in areas closest to Dedza Township. So we went to savour the areas of Traditional Authorities Tambala, Kasumbu, Chilikumwendo and Kanchere. Coincidentally, we were there when that campaign ambulance, being ferried from village to village in a truck, ended up killing some people whose lives it was supposed to save.
We have travelled to Nkhata Bay, Mangochi, Karonga, Nsanje, Phalombe, Dowa and Mchinji. We have seen poverty there, but none can compare with what we saw in the area of Traditional Authorities Tambala and Kasumbu. Appalling would not even be enough to describe what we saw there.
As soon as we came back to the Dedza Pottery, we freshened up, and drove out for a cold night summer drink, boiled local chicken, and mang’ina. We chose to go to Aunt Jayne’s Bottle Store, located opposite the Linthipe Post Office, on the Lilongwe-Blantyre Highway. The owner, a smashing Kadzamira-look-alike woman, was friendly and welcoming, but had no time for time-wasters. She greeted us and asked her barman to look after us. The barman, known as Man Thomas, gave Sheikh Jean-Philippe, Abiti Joyce Befu and me, fantakoko; but there was no amalaula for Traditional Authority Mandela. Instead, NA Mandela went for ntchafula of boiled local chicken.
Before we finished our first round of drinks and local chicken, a group of middle-aged men flooded the bar. And they talked. And they analyzed everything. Politics. Cashgate. Love. HIV and AIDS. Marriage. Ethnicity. Tribalism. Regionalism. And they analysed everyone. Chakwera. Atupele Muluzu. Mark Katsonga. John Chisi. Peter Mutharika. Joyce Banda. For the first time, we decided not to join in because election campaign time is emotive and dangerous time.
From a distance, we heard them agree that as far as they could see the 2014 election is essentially about Joyce Banda, who has since 2013 portrayed herself as a martyr ready to be nailed on the political cross for helping to reveal the wanton theft of national resources by people closest to the national cash chest.
For good or bad reasons, the group’s argument went, 2014 belongs to Joyce Banda because it is the year in which she will prove to the world that she is either worth or not worth to be president of a poor but demanding and cantankerous people. In 2014 Joyce Banda will have to prove that the DPP regional governor was wrong to declare that Malawi is not ready for a female president. If Joyce Banda fails to win the 2014 presidential election, that DPP regional governor will be vindicated. If she wins the 2014 presidential race, Joyce Banda will prove that she was not a toy running-mate to Bingu wa Mutharika. If she wins, she will be the first female presidential candidate in Southern Africa to do so and she will prove that indeed kukhala mzimayi sichifukwa because Malawi is, and for generations to come will be, an extremely patriarchal country where even vocal gender equality activists acknowledge men’s dominance by wanting special treatment and favours. Above all if Joyce Banda fails to win the 2014 elections, she will be on record as the first and only incumbent Malawian president to have lost an election since multiparty democracy was reintroduced in Malawi in 1994.
Whether or not incumbent presidents and their handpicked replacements really win the ballot is a different matter, the group observed. The fact is that since 1994 no president has lost. Bakili Muluzi won in 1994 and did so overwhelmingly in 1999. Bingu wa Mutharika won in 2004 and did so overwhelmingly in 2009. So, as political logic would hold, only a TB-Joshuan miracle will make Joyce Banda fail to win. How it happens that even an obviously loathed president wins in Malawi is an issue for academic discussion, the group concluded.