Last week, Alhajj Mufti Jean-Philippe LePoisson, SC (RTD); the MP NA Mzee Mandela; Abiti Joyce Befu, MG 66, and I, the Mohashoi, promised. Today we deliver on that promise by unveiling the woman who excelled for Malaŵi in 2016.
We nominated Mrs Gertrude Mutharika, Malaŵi’s First Lady and matron of the Beautify Malaŵi foundation; Dr Jesse Kabwila, Member of Parliament for Salima North West Constituency; Ms Juliana Lunguzi, Member of Parliament for the Dedza East Constituency; Mrs Martha Chizuma-Mwangonde Malaŵi’s Ombudswoman or Public Protector and Board director of the International Ombudsman Institute (IOI) Africa; and Ms Mwaŵi (not Mwayi; not even Mwai) Kumwenda, professional netballer at the Melbourne Vixens in Australia.
We assessed these women for their courage, innovativeness, vision, tenacity and umunthu-inspiration. Marks were awarded through stringent marking, that is, by deducting marks for failures in a candidate.
In 2016, Mrs Mutharika displayed genuine concern and umunthu to improve Malaŵi’s environment and outlook and to promote general good health. Mrs Mutharika was personally seen cleaning up public places as a demonstration that even those in high offices should participate in cleaning our living spaces. Her two roundabouts on the Presidential Highway in Lilongwe have contributed to the City Centre’s beauty. However, given the political will and muscle she has, we were not satisfied with the level of effort her organisation made. Plastics, sugarcane and fruit peels, diapers, used condoms, used bras and underwear still clutter our storm drains, waterways, streets and, shockingly, even market centres. For this, we deducted a lot of marks.
Then, we considered Dr Jesse Kabwila, the woman who rose to fame because of her successful leadership during the Chancellor College Academic Freedom tribulations. Within Unima, Dr Kabwila is still fondly called the mother of academic freedom. Her courage to take on President Bingu wa Mutharika and Peter Mutharika, then Minister of Education, shows how determined the woman can be. Remember “executive arrogance”? That was Dr Kabwila’s description of the stance Bingu took as President of Malaŵi and Chancellor of the University of Malaŵi.
When she joined the Malaŵi Congress Party and later the Parliament to represent the people of Salima North West, Dr Kabwila spoke passionately for and defended the position and policies of her party until something, something we still do not understand, happened, and she got suspended. Nevertheless, as chair of the women’s parliamentary caucus in Malaŵi and in the SADC region, Kabwila continued to work for the promotion of women in politics and in parliament. However, her wild, unfounded, unpalatable, and unsubstantiated castigation of men for women’s political failures irked us and we deducted some marks from her eventual score.
Then we looked at MP Juliana Lunguzi, also of the Malaŵi Congress Party, who is in Parliament courtesy of the people of Dedza East. Ms Lunguzi has shown determination to uplift her constituents through development projects and empowerment programmes. Recently, she founded the Dedza East Trust dedicated for the same purpose. Ms Lunguzi was instrumental in providing oversight in parliament and at Dedza District Council. We agreed that in 2016 Ms Lunguzi did a good job but we deducted substantial marks because her silence on Tractorgate bothered us since she was among the first MPs to get hold of the facts about this criminality.
Penultimately, we examined Mrs Martha Chizuma-Mwangonde, Malaŵi’s ombudswoman. In 2016, Mrs Chizuma-Mwangonde proved to be proactive and ensured that complaints were timely investigated, reports written and her office’s determination made public. It is through her courage that we now know that the tractors and farm implements bought by the Bingu administration were substandard and were sold off illegally. For many, her unprecedented direction that the principal secretaries (PS) from concerned ministries apologise within 30 days was not enough, but it cornered the government. To this date, nobody has apologised because currently there is no political will in Malaŵi to punish criminality. Even that mere Village Headman from Machinga has not returned the tractor he ‘corruptly’ obtained.
Mrs Chizuma-Mwangonde has vowed to ask the Director of Public Prosecutions to prosecute the irresponsible PS, well, if the Attorney General stops intervening. We were about to give her the full marks when we realised that she had not recognised us, the Bottom-Up expedition, as the pioneering and principal anti-tractorgate crusaders. For this commissioned omission, marks were generously deducted.
Finally, we considered Ms Mwaŵi Kumwenda: unassuming, selfless, patriotic, goal-oriented, philanthropic, Malaŵi’s most decorated netballer, Tactix (New Zealand) player of the year 2016, World Games Association Athlete of the Year 2015, and Airtel Malaŵi brand Ambassador, 2016-2017. In 2016, Mwaŵi fought hard and patriotically for Malawi, for herself and for her teammates’ welfare. Mwaŵi is living proof that with determination, tenacity and focus we can graduate ourselves from this hopelessness, mediocrity and poverty. With Mwaŵi Kumwenda’s umunthu philanthropy, we can inspire others and share the fruits of our success with the poor. Obviously, no marks were deducted. So, congratulations Mwaŵi Kumwenda, our woman of 2016. n