Q: How does it feel to have the first female President in Malawiâ€™s history?
A: Exciting, I would say. One thing we need to know or remember is that Malawi is not the first country in the world or in Africa to be led by a female Head of State. Liberia has a, female president that makes Madame Joyce Banda second in Africa. World examples would include: Margaret Thatcher of Britain, Indira Ghandi of India, Iva Peron of Argentina and Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan, among the prominent ones. So, we are not the first country to be led by a female head of state. No need for unfounded fears or chauvinistic feelings about it.
Q: What remains of the DPP?
A: They will need to reconstitute themselves if they are still interested in taking part in the countryâ€™s politics. The opportunities are still there, but they will need to put their name in some kind of a laundry, and they are badly in need of credible leadership at the moment.
Q: What do you make of the sudden expressions of allegiance by some DPP gurus to President Banda?
A: I have serious reservations. I think they are full of vendettas. Most of them are doing that just to escape retribution. I think the President should just ignore them and concentrate on her agenda. After all, there are almost 15 million people of diverse talents, skills and expertise in this country. Out of these, she can create a credible team to work with. All she needs to do is to look beyond Parliament, Cabinet and her PP.
Q: What expectations do you have on the choice of Cabinet?
A: Surely, Madam President will need a new Cabinet, preferably soon after the funeral events. How she does it, indeed is her own prerogative and I am sure she has professionally capable people to advise her, but she will need to be both careful and tactful. I expect a good mixture of politicians and technocrats or what one commentator referred to as an all possible talent (APT) Cabinet. In doing this I would stay away from the likes of the Kaliatis, Vuwas, Dausis, Ntabas, Kanyumbas, Goodall Gondwes, Mpinganjiras, Baguses, Chinkwitas, etc, of this world. Change should be seen to be effected. I would add that this is the age of technocracy. Old-fashioned methods of running government based on political patronage, appeasement, party loyalty, have no room in the modern developmental states. It is about effective policy-making and delivery, in a typical results-oriented manner.
Q: What should be Bandaâ€™s governing principles if she wants to gain recognition on the public and international domains?
A: If I were her adviser, I would tell her she has a choice between a â€˜developmental stateâ€™ and a â€˜regulatory stateâ€™. In most parts of the less developed world, this is the â€˜Age of Developmental Statesâ€™. A developmental state not only refers to the collective economic and human development, but also describes the stateâ€™s essential role in harnessing national resources and directing incentives through a distinctive policy-making process. This is contrasted with a â€˜regulatory stateâ€™ that governs the economy mainly through regulatory agencies that are empowered to enforce a variety of standards of behaviour to protect the public against market failures of various sorts, including monopolistic pricing, predation, and other abuses of market power, and by providing collective goods (such as public health or education) that otherwise would be undersupplied by the market. Developmental states can pursue industrial policies, while regulatory states, generally, cannot. Both models have proved to work depending on prevailing local and international factors.
Q: What should be her top priorities now that she has taken over a government that was facing tough economic challenges and governance issues?
A: Madame Banda will have to revitalise public or State institutions, especially governance institutions such as the Human Rights Commission, the Law Commission, the Office of the Ombudsman, the Prison Inspectorate, and other case handling bodies that have been greatly undermined in the last two to four years, while the Anti-Corruption Bureau has been criticised for prioritising cases that have political undertones. These institutions are important for governance.
Her government will also need to recapitalise and rebrand public services delivery agencies (the providers of social services and utilities) such as Escom, Water Boards, the Housing Corporation, Admarc and so on, for them to become useful contributors to the national economy. At the moment, these provide rather substandard services because their delivery capacities are just too low and they are not effectively responding to the growing demands for their services.
On the economic front, there will be need for identification of engines of growth and strategic partnership between government and key economic players in order to provide a strong and effective development policy implementation framework. At the moment, as the situation stands, it is difficult to identify which sectors provide the engine(s) for growth and what is the partnership framework between government and the key economic actors.
Much as Madam President has promised or rather â€˜prayedâ€™ for no politics of revenge or retribution, I am dead sure Malawians will need and demand accountability. She will have to avoid unnecessarily shielding those who need to account for their actions. They will include: Those behind the July 20-21 killings, those behind the killing of Robert Chasowa, those behind the closure of Chancellor College for almost nine months, those behind the attempted move(s) to stop her from taking over the presidency against constitutional provisions (which in fact is treason); those behind shady deals such as the Malawi Housing scandal, and so on. If she decides to carelessly shield those characters, she may have to answer to the voters in May 2014.
Q: What are the chances of her and the PP winning in 2014 general elections?
A: Is she quite well positioned for that at the moment? She can use the power of incumbency, but she will need to guard against overconfidence and complacency. She should think beyond 2014â€”appoint those with potential to win in 2014. The majority of the current DPP ministers and MPs are unlikely to make it back to Parliament after the May 2014 elections, unfortunately.