It is Friday and Joyce Banda gives up her quest to return to State House, citing her 68-year-old age and that she had done enough, including being Malawi’s president.
She then effusively endorses Saulos Chilima.
“At a time such as this, I have looked around and said this person [Chilima] has more energy than I have. All I can do is support him to get to the destination. I don’t have to be on the ticket,” she tells British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) later that day.
Do you have reservations about taking the coalition move? Asks the BBC journalist. “No,” she says, adding that Vice-President Chilima is “a young, able gentleman and he can lead this nation”.
That was Friday.
It is now Monday, just 72 hours later and Banda—the former president who came a distant third in the 2014 presidential contest—runs away from Chilima, taking along her endorsement and saved it for herself.
On this Monday, a statement from her People’s Party (PP) cites Chilima’s refusal to give the running mate post to her party as reason for leaving the unconsummated partnership.
Three days earlier, on that Friday, she declared that “we must allow other people to lead for the common good”.
That Friday, the former president also said she and Chilima have similar policy positions; hence, it was not “necessary for us to run in different directions” and that “there is power in unity”.
But yesterday, she did run in a different direction from Chilima’s, rediscovering power in herself and her PP, not in unity as earlier stated.
She unveiled former Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc) chief executive officer Jerry Jana—who was at some point director of economic affairs in PP—as her running mate.
It was a stunning tactical reversal—from a Chilima hugging selfless leader putting Malawians ahead of personal ambition to a ‘go-it-alone’ candidate stance that could cost the former president her biggest political asset: trust.
More Malawians trust Joyce Banda than any other political leader in the country, according to a survey by Zomba-based Institute of Public Opinion and Research (Ipor) released last November.
But there was no ambiguity yesterday about her desire to return to the country’s helm in her speech after submitting her nomination paper to the Malawi Electoral Commission (MEC) at Comesa Hall in Blantyre.
Banda said: “We come here to say that we want to implement phase two and in this phase we have sat down with experts, Dr Jana included, in coming up with an economic model like no other and we believe that implementing that economic plan, we shall change lives of Malawians.
“We are going to emphasise on food security, economic recovery and growth, jobs, environment, energy, health, education and particularly social protection.”
Banda—who avoided to comment on the PP’s failed coalition with UTM and other parties—hinted that this time around her party has come up with an economic model like no other.
She said with the coming in of Jana—whom she described as an experienced businessperson—she was upbeat that once voted into power, Malawi will move from poverty to prosperity. n