For the first time, Malawi lost a sitting president. We were among the first to hear of the fact that the late president had been rushed to hospital on the morning of Thursday April 5th. When news of his â€˜deathâ€™ reached us, we brushed it aside as untrue. Upon confirmation from reliable sources, many in our newsroom wore sombre faces.
The finality of death inevitably brought some to tears. We would never see Bingu wa Mutharika again, never hear him utter another word, never write to him, through media, on Malawiâ€™s woes. But then again, as his daughter Duwa said in her heart-rending speech at his State funeral on April 23rd, we will never, ever forget him.
On April 7th, the first female President in Malawi and the entire Sadc region was sworn in. We watched attentively as Madam President took her oath, then inspected her guard of honour on that windy Saturday. People on the streets voiced their hope for a new Malawi and an expectation that our new President would lead us to it.
History was made. A product of Joyce Banda Foundation myself, my heart swelled with pride as I watched the woman who I initially knew and referred to as â€˜our founderâ€™ achieve her heartâ€™s desire and become a beacon of hope to women and girls all over the country.
I remembered the inspirational speeches she made when she came to the school; I remembered how she â€˜motheredâ€™ all of us and let us run loose on her house grounds after a farewell lunch. Most of all, I remembered how, with one hand laid against her chest, she led us to sing the school motto Laborare Vinci, which means â€œWe work to succeed.â€™
I also remembered being welcomed into her home for a lengthy interview a few days before the 2009 election results were released, where she said, and I quote:
I do not consider politics to be my career. It is my calling in life and a mission I have to fulfil. When I was about 29, I realised that what I really wanted to do was to assist women and the youth in the country… After I came up with my life mission, I drew up an action plan on how I would fulfil it.
As someone who has had the opportunity to study and learn from the President, I have a firm belief that we will work in a structured manner to achieve success in her endeavours.
Now, just a few days before the month comes to a close, the President has announced her new, 32-member Cabinet and a fresh wave of excitement has washed over us all as we analyse the appointments.
Being neither a politician nor a ministry official, let me humbly offer a bit of advice to those elected. I hope they remember that as ministers, their primary goal is to serve the people of Malawi and not the other way round. I hope they acknowledge that they are not 32 people with 14 million subjects but rather 32 people who have pledged to serve 14 million masters.
Even though it is peppered with respect, luxury and posh cars, the road ahead will not be easy; serving two masters is hard enough, but ensuring that 14 million voices are heeded to is a magnanimous task. May you be guided by American President John F Kennedyâ€™s January 1961 Inaugural address, in which he famously said; ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country. It reads, in part:
To those peoples in the huts and villages…struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required…not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich… With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth, Godâ€™s work must truly be our own.