Malawi:President Banda’s cross and the Nigerian connection
Banda’s cross and the Nigerian connection
Amid joy on the continent following the emergence of Joyce Banda as Malawi and Southern Africa’s first female president, Abiodun Awolaja highlights some challenges which the new president has to tackle, as well as the Nigerian connection.
NEWLY inaugurated Malawian president, Joyce Banda, is currently caught in a controversial climate over the death of her predecessor, Bingu Mutharika, who died recently, aged 78, and her own ascension to the Number One seat as the country’s and even South Africa’s first woman president. In a continent still very much at home with political occultism fuelled by traditional demonism, Banda’s macabre and dramatic relationship with the controversial Nigerian spiritualist, Prophet Temitope Joshua, is raising concerns about an international conspiracy in the death, some are even going as far as saying say ‘murder’, of Mutharika, an event which Joshua himself admitted that he predicted two times before it happened. Banda is being widely celebrated by women’s organisations across the continent as a hero who braved all odds to make the Presidency, but the seeds of future discord in the country are already being sown, with potentially devastating results.
Although the Banda/Joshua controversy is easily dismissed by many commentators in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Uganda and Nigeria as a kind of wild goose chase, its potentiality to engineer violence and ethnic distrust in a country firmly gripped by widespread poverty is deadly. As Mutharika’s deputy, Banda, a former women’s rights activist who gained fame in the early 1980s and joined politics in 1999, had always expressed her desire to get the plum job, particularly after her quarrel with the late president resulted in her expulsion from the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which had itself been formed by the late president after he broke ranks with former President Bakili Muluzi and his United Democratic Front (UDF).
Banda had accused the late Mutharika of grooming the then Foreign Affairs Minister, Peter Mutharika, as his successor, arguing that such a hereditary transfer was not in the best interest of the country.”The chronic disease of third term, or chieftaincy, remains one of the greatest enemies of our efforts to achieve sustainable development,” she had said. But then she got expelled from the ruling party, going on to form her own People’s Party (PP), with fanatic appeal among the womenfolk. Banda had always spoken of the feminisation of poverty and her desire to tackle the menace.
However, although sacked from the ruling party, Banda retained her vice presidential portfolio since she was jointly elected with the late president and had not been found guilty of any impeachable offence, although many had pushed for her trial on alleged mutiny after she publicly endorsed the widespread protests against the Mutharika government last July. Mutharika himself accused her of being behind the protests and threat to the nation’s security. the country’s Nyasa Times also accused her of plotting a coup. By October, speculations were rife that Mutharika’s government was going to slam a treason charge on Banda, who was being accused in intelligence quarters, however political, of collaborating with foreign mercenaries to truncate the Mutharika government before the 2014 handover date.
Banda was at the Synagogue Church of All Nations, Lagos, last December, and is a big fan of the Nigerian prophet, who she claimed healed her husband of stroke. On February 6 this year, Joshua predicted that an unnamed African president would die in April. On Thursday, 5 April, as accurately predicted by Joshua, President Mutharika had a cardiac arrest. By Friday, 7 April, 2012, the coast was clear for Banda to assume office. This made commentators like the Zanu PF minister, Professor Jonathan Moyo, to suggest that Mutharika’s death was engineered by his political enemies using the Joshua prophecy as an attention-diverting ploy and calling for a closer scrutiny of the Banda-Joshua relationship. Moyo alleged that President Mutharika had died as a result of an intelligence operation.
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