The day I borrowed that book from a friend I anticipated for an in-depth account of a man who fought the “stupid one party system” oops forgive me for that. I mean the man who ousted Kamuzu Banda, (this is the man who fought the “stupid federation”) Muluzi ruled for ten years and I am not here to analyze the pluses and minuses of his rule.
The day I meet him, we will not only play bawo and sip coffee. Muluzi must tell me why he gave me a raw deal in his biography. Why half of it was filled with speeches he made during his presidency. Why his book never said anything about his family. Why it never said anything about his lowlights and highlights as a person.
Let me hasten to say that he did a good job by including some old pictures which show him dressed in a shirt (not tucked in), a pair of hanging trousers and a pair of slippers (Pata-Pata). That picture told a good story Your Excellency.
Talking of biographies, Bingu departed without one. I wish he had spent more time on writing a biography than the “African Dream” (By the way, would someone tell me the Publisher and International Standard Book Number-ISBN- for that book)
State Presidents are a national asset and we always need to have their lives on almost all prominent shelves (both in libraries and shops) in the country.
Time has come for Malawians to know their presidents; where they come from, what they have done in life academically, socially, politically and economically (may be that might bring to fruition the notion of Presidents declaring their assets; by the way, who needs them to declare if we already know of their wealth through their biographies?)
This is why I have today decided to highlight a few things that have caught my attention as I read through several newspapers that date back to the early 90s. These are accounts that involve some of our politicians.
Now, because the current president is a woman, allow me to narrow my attention to a faction of women who positively and negatively have impacted our political landscape over the years. President Joyce Banda is where she is today not by chance and the facts highlighted herein would help her construct a relevant manuscript when she decides to put her life account in black and white.
Hold your breath ladies and gentlemen, let’s get served.
Her Excellency Mrs. Joyce Banda entered politics officially as Director of Women in UDF. Hitherto she had served as chair of ADMARC where Anna Namathanga Kachikho worked as Executive Officer.
Having won a joint award with former Mozambique President,Joachim Chissano, Joyce Banda became the chair of the board of Hunger Project in Malawi. It was her influence that initiated the recruitment of Callista Mutharika, then Chapola Chimombo, as Executive Director of the institution.
Both Anna and Callista quit their positions to run as Members of Parliament in 2004 on United Democratic Front (UDF) tickets. Anna in Phalombe North and Callista in Zomba Likangala. Guess who chaired the UDF primaries in those constituencies? Joyce Banda, who at that time had already been an MP for five years.
Both women lost the primaries and they vehemently accused Joyce Banda of failing them in favour of other candidates.
The two decided to proceed with the campaign as independent candidates. The bad blood that had been created between the three women was evident during the campaign as they castigated one another (Callista and Anna on one side, Joyce on the other)
Kachikho went on to win against UDF's Justin Mokowa while Callista also triumphed against the party's G.L Mulombe. They both rejoined UDF afterwards.
Though she lost her seat five years later, Callista found her wings when she entered State House as First Lady in 2010. The very moment Bingu and Joyce Banda stopped seeing each other eye to eye; the First Lady took sides (the bible teaches us that the two become one, right?)
Bingu aggravated it by taking away the Safe Motherhood Ambassadorship from Joyce Banda and gave it to his wife.
Callista never disappointed her husband. Whether donating blankets to a hospital or attending a girls’ function at Zingwangwa Secondary School she always made sure she attacked Joyce Banda in some way. She reminded Malawians that they could never be ruled by someone who is not a Professor and a mere mandasi seller. (The President has always told Malawians that she is more than proud to be called that)
Enter Patricia Kaliati.
When the Ministry of Information was split from Tourism after she quarreled with her Principal Secretary, Beaton Munthali, Kaliati prevented the new Minister of Tourism (Callista), from occupying the offices at the Ministry of Tourism. All Ministers of Information preferred to use these offices.
It took the intervention of Bingu through Office of President and Cabinet (OPC) for Kaliati to give way. I don’t know how Kaliati reacted the first time she learnt that Bingu had decided to marry Callista.
Then came the moment when Joyce Banda crossed paths with Kaliati . As Vice President, Joyce Banda had powers to give orders in the absence of Bingu.
One time Bingu went to China. Meanwhile Kaliati had a trip to China too. She sought permission from Joyce Banda then acting President. Permission was not granted. Joyce Banda told Kaliati she could not travel because her presence as minister would be needed when Bingu would be opening the New Parliament Building some days later. Kaliati appeared to have listened.
After that order Banda left for USA two days later. In her absence, Kaliati sought permission from Chimunthu Banda, then acting President, to travel to China.
Permission was granted. Joyce Banda felt Kaliati was insurbodinative and complained to Bingu.
Bingu didn't act.
Another fall out.
Having read all this, you might be asking “Where in the equation does Anna Kachikho fit?” Read on.
Kachikho was part of the silent troops waging a silent battle against Joyce Banda all this time. (Don’t be naïve to think that Kachikho returned to DPP after a short stint in Peoples Party only for fear of Section 65) I beg to differ.
Even had she found solace in PP, she had to deal with the fact that she had played a great role in Joyce Banda’s political turmoil before she became President. (Do I need to remind you how some overzealous cohorts of Bingu have been denied membership in PP?)
Kachikho has another political battle she has been executing; this time not against Joyce Banda. Remember that Kaliati and Kachikho also don't see eye to eye because of their fight of supremacy in the Lomwe belt.
If we are to limit our focus on Joyce Banda, Anna Kachikho and Patricia Kaliati then their triangle has also been characterized by power struggle all along.
They all have been ministers of Gender, replacing each other in that order. This gave them more access to women (a powerful constituency in any political movement).
The most influential of them as minister was Kaliati. Besides castigating her predecessors as weak, she also stopped women from dancing for Vice President Joyce Banda, saying only the President deserved the privilege. (I wonder if she might say the same today)
All the four are still alive; very much part of our population. Currently, Joyce Banda has the Jokers from the cards. She together with Kaliati and Kachikho must face the electorate at 2014 albeit on different levels.
I don’t know how long again it might take for Malawi to have another female President. Whether Kachikho, Callista and Kaliati will be that other person, I don’t know.
If President Joyce Banda is to write a biography (a thing I highly recommend), she must include this information as a chapter in that book. Malawians would love to know her not from the day she became Vice President or President but from the day she was born 62 years ago, what she has been through in life, both good and bad.
However, the other three cannot be ignored because they have helped shape the destiny of our country.
Ladies and Gentlemen let’s put our hands together for Malawi’s most influential clique of women politicians.