Therefore, I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior. 1 Timothy 2:1-3
Several days after the end of his term of office in January 2017, former US President (aka POTUS45) Barrack Obama and wife Michelle Obama (former First Lady), were spotted on a private island and reportedly the guests of billionaire, Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic Airlines. How discreet! So, the former president of the United States has friends, other than the millions of voters and world-wide admirers that sailed the waves of glee through his eight-year presidency, as the first African American to rise to that high office.
Onto Malawi’s five presidents; they too, had friends, except maybe the first president of Malawi (POM1), Kamuzu Banda. The second Muluzi (POM2) had a pack of friends that usually packed the presidential airspace to smatterings. Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi president three (POM3), also had friends, especially from his years in exile. Some were discrete, but others aspired to crowd the presidential airspace, to their own peril. POM4, the first female POM, Joyce Banda had the most friends, drawn from years of non-government work and small business activities. The presidential airspace appears to have quickly been cleared of friends and crowded with a decidedly younger set.
Then enter POM5, the current president, aka as the sitting POM, Peter Arthur Mutharika. He inherited a lot of his brother’s friends, numerous many of whom, were recycled into ministerial positions. He also has a motley crew of his own friends. The mix is as curious as any tossed salad.
Truth be told, all the POMs leave in our history books – those that are not politically embellished with too much fringes – with a sense of pride, enthusiasm, indignation, disdain, laughter, and a motley of feelings. As Malawians, we must own them. They are ours. Truth be told, there must be something to love our leaders, and per chance venture into daily praying for them as they roll off the ballot boxes as the winner.
Kamuzu: like Obama and Trump, Kamuzu deserves his own article and or books. He is to be remembered for breaking the imposed 1953 Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. For that he spent one year in Gwero – a Zimbabwe (then known as Southern Rhodesia). But mostly, as POM1, Kamuzu (aka the Ngwazi and Nkhoswe of all women), had three dreams: University in Zomba, Capital to Lilongwe, and the Lake Shore Road linking Malawi from Nsanje in the south, Salima in the center and Karonga in the north. He later added a fourth dream, the Kamuzu Academy, that would offer gramma school tuition like Britain’s top notch gramma school Eton. As Chancellor of the University of Malawi, Kamuzu gave public lectures that normally lasted four to five hours. He was very famous for undemocratic governance.
Muluzi: POM2 is definitely our political engineer who, apart from wrestling power from the fearsome Dr. Banda, Muluzi made Malawians accept and live with the fact that we could live without the Ngwazi in power. Muluzi will be remembered for being the first president of democratic Malawi; his humor; and his attendance at funerals and weddings. During his administration, Muluzi through the privatization concept, lead the country to off load its shares in numerous companies that government had held the majority of shares; this thereby removing government from commercial enterprises. He was tested in wading through the pillars of democratic culture, freedoms of this, freedoms of that, and freedoms of those. There were freedoms everywhere; at the same time, there were restrictions on what government could and could not do. He also will be remembered for trying to change the constitution to enable him run for a third term of office. He was very famous for rife corruption.
Bingu: Also known as the economic engineer, POM3 pulled a fast one on Malawians who during campaign he hardly said anything, except “Muluzi woyee, Bing woyee, aMalawi woyee.” However, while I lay in ben moping that the woyee man had won, I woke up when I heard his inaugural speech which was bringing back memories of four hour “when I was in Gwero…” lectures of Kamuzu. Reading the entire speech the next day, I joined many people that saw some glimmer of hope. By January 20, 2005, and his zero tolerance on corruption, POM3 own my heart. He promoted women, epitome being choosing Joyce Banda as his running mate in 2009. Bingu’s greatest signature is his development program: the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy – MGDS (I and II). He built the Kamuzu Mausoleum, moved the presidential residence to Kamuzu Palace and built law makers their own Parliament Building, changed allegiances from Taiwan to China; build the Nsanje Inland Port. Food-wise, Bingu challenged western countries, by re-introducing farm subsidies, revolutionized farming in Malawi, built silos to store grain surpluses. This led to increased food security at household levels throughout Malawi.; introduced fish farming by injecting spawns into the lake. Mutharika also re-named some landmarks that seriously had Kamuzu’s signature; these are namely: the Kamuzu International Airport, Stadium, Highway; the previous administration had changed in 1994. I will remember that while in office first the Frist Lady Mde Ethel Mutharika passed away (2007); then five years later he passed.
Joyce Banda (Amai): Her rise to the post of POM4 was a mixture of great joy, and sadness: she was Malawi’s first female president, but coming on the heels of the sudden death of POM3. But her ascendancy to the high seat highlighted how great empathy displayed with aplomb, one can comfort even one’s adversaries in time of great loss. She led Malawians in mourning Bingu, laying aside animosities that were festering in the wrangle for power of the hot seat. Once in it, Joyce Banda showed that women can lead. She will be remembered for sourcing help from close quarters like Nigeria, South Africa and Botswana; the latter leading to her signature one cow per family initiative. Started a war of words with Tanzania over the Lake Malawi ownership, after it was discovered there is oil in it. She was loved by the international elites including the Queen, POTUS44; however, her presidency will be marred by wide-spread syphoning of cash by government officers in a saga codenamed cash-gate. Her government imprisoned the current POM and few former minister, charged with treason for their attempts to change the Constitution that would have barred her from becoming POM4. She is currently been in exile since the July 2014 election results that led to APM (current POM5) to power. She is finalizing a book on women leadership and girls education, and slated to return to Malawi in the near future.
APM: POM5 is not a man of many words. I will however, remember his assenting to the marriage, divorce and inheritance law that, among others, changed the age of marriage from 15 to 18 years; during his presidency, he also signed the amendment in the Constitution that harmonizes the Constitution to the Laws of Malawi on the age of marriage from 15 to 18 years. Wide corruption, money laundering and numerous get-rich-fast by high and low functionaries, is leading to the downward spiral of the economy in Malawi, and to wide-spread vulnerabilities and great apathy. He has continued war of words with Tanzania over the Lake ownership. And like Kamuzu, Muluzi and Bingu, has lashed out at tobacco sellers and racist managers working in Malawi. All four men have deported a few white men who chose to utter verbal abuse at a Malawian.
I love all my presidents, and always pray for them – past and present.
Long live genuine democracy!