Malawi's Banda goes live on radio to defend her record
On New Year’s Eve, Malawi’s President Joyce Banda did something novel.
She went live on radio to take telephone calls from ordinary Malawians across the country hoping to clarify issues that are currently of concern to the country.
The initiative by local radio Zodiak Broadcasting Service (ZBS) gave Malawians an opportunity to talk directly to their President Banda though a live programme and also to directly send phone text messages.
Sitting outside the Chikoko-Bay presidential villa alongside the shores of Lake Malawi, President Banda told her fellow countrymen that she would not backtrack on the ongoing economic recovery reforms despite being issued with a 14-day ultimatum by rights activists who are against some of the measures she is pursuing.
Several people called and many more sent mobile phone short messages to the president on a number of issues touching on the political decisions she has made since she took over in April this year, among them the economic recovery programme, development, education, youth empowerment and simmering unemployment.
However, the president deflected most of the questions saying that she was only completing the programmes that were initiated by her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika and that Malawians should wait for her full terms to gauge her capability.
"I was not voted into this office. I was put on this position by God. I cannot just change some of the policies that were pursued by the late president,” she said.
“People have been saying I have no substance, they should wait for my manifesto."
President Banda argued her regular local and international travels –which have been criticized – and the floatation of the local currency were part of efforts to resuscitate the economy.
She admitted that at the moment the country's economy and the socio-political landscape have not improved, but pleaded for Malawians to be patient.
On the controversial question of gay rights, the president said she had nothing to say on the matter and would leave Malawians to decide for themselves.
The president also said she will not in any way stop a planned civil society protest that have been slated for the January 17 saying: "I will be the last person to stop people from demonstrating but I believe Malawians will be able to see where we are and where we were eight months ago."
The interview which was expected to run for two hours was cut short because the president reportedly had other urgent matters to attend to.
Comments on social media afterwards were mixed, with many saying the president had nothing new to say.