The anticipated return of former president Joyce Banda from self-imposed exile this Saturday has drawn mixed reactions with analysts saying the move is ill-timed politically.
However, her People’s Party (PP) says the return of its founder fondly known as JB, who has been out of the country for close to four years, will strengthen the party as the country heads to polls next year.
Banda’s spokesperson Andekuche Chanthunya, who on Monday announced JB’s decision to return home, said the former president can still run for office in 2019.
But speaking in a telephone interview yesterday, University of Livingstonia (Unilia) political science lecturer George Phiri, said the return of JB is good in the sense that she belongs to the country, but her presence will not have an impact on the party ahead of next year’s elections.
He described JB as someone with no capacity to seize opportunities such as the on-going internal wrangles in the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) and opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP).
Said Phiri: “If she is a strategist then yes, but I do not think she is of that caliber. I do not think that she is that kind of person who can see opportunities from that perspective. She lost to DPP and I do not think she has the capacity to utilise any opportunity to win.”
However, political analyst Augustine Magolowondo said JB’s return to the political scene will certainly mean a lot to the PP rank andfile that for so long had no unifying figure.
He contended that reviving PP will, however, be an uphill task for Banda given that over the years, the party has fragmented significantly.
“If her priority will be to revive PP, that will be a big and demanding task in itself, regardless of what is happening in the other parties. It will also depend on the vision she has to sell to the Malawians and the readiness of the latter [Malawians] to align with that vision. At this point, it is too early to tell the political implications of her home-coming,” said Magolowondo.
While stating that it would be difficult to predict her next move, political, development and governance commentator Henry Chingaipe has advised JB to hand over power to someone who has kept the party going in her absence.
He said JB might have looked at the political context and saw the time as the best to come home and get back into politics but feared she would not get a sympathetic welcome from ordinary Malawians and PP itself.
“If the worst comes to the worst, she needs to get back to PP and give it a proper footing by handing over power to those who have kept the party moving or let her renew her mandate. But firstly, she needs to settle matters in PP and give the party a new lease of life,” he said.
Chingaipe also observed that any political move that Banda makes that could be deemed a threat to the ruling DPP could revive the government’s plans to prosecute her.
Ibrahim Matola, who is also the party’s secretary general, argued that there has never been vacuum in the party and that JB’s return will strengthen the party.
When contacted about JB’s return, embattled former PP interim president Uladi Mussa said he was not concerned.
“I do not want to comment on those things, that is water under the bridge for me. Whether she is coming or not, I am not concerned,” he said.