Thursday, May 02, 2013

(SUNDAY MAIL ZW) President Banda leaves footprints in Zim
Sunday, 28 April 2013 00:00
Lincoln Towindo

President Mugabe and his Malawian counterpart, Dr Joyce Banda, share a lighter moment while touring exhibition stands at the just-ended Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo on Friday — Picture by Percy Musiiwa

In the five days she spent in Zimbabwe, Malawi President Dr Joyce Banda made her presence felt.

One of the most powerful women on the African continent, she last week traversed the length and breadth of the country interacting with all and sundry from senior Government officials, business executives, tobacco farmers, right through to orphans at the Grace Mugabe Children’s Home in Mazowe.

A champion of affirmative action, women empowerment, Dr Banda — just like her Zimbabwean counterpart — is renowned for her pro-poor economic policies in Malawi.

Her visit served to further encapsulate African solidarity for a fellow nation whose people’s aspirations have been ravaged by the bane of illegal Western sanctions for over a decade.

During her brief stay, President Banda was evidently impressed by the Zimbabwean model of black affirmative action.

She visited places such as the country’s tobacco auction floors, the Grace Mugabe Children’s Home and subsequently the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair, which she officially opened on Friday.

She hailed Zimbabwe’s economic empowerment programmes, saying Malawi will work to replicate the land reform and economic empowerment programmes which benefit the majority.

Since assuming power last year following the death of President Bingu Wa Mutharika, Dr Banda has instituted a raft of policy measures aimed at uplifting indigenous Malawians, especially women, thereby drawing a parallel with Zimbabwe’s black empowerment initiative.

President Banda’s Economic Recovery Plan, which emphasises farm input subsidies in an economy that is hugely dependent on tobacco exports for sustenance, has been hailed as the pinnacle of her short reign.

Following in the footsteps of her predecessor, President Banda has trudged on fighting Malawi’s economic dependence on Western economies nearly 50 years after the country attained independence.

Speaking after touring the country’s biggest indigenous tobacco auction floors — Boka — Dr Banda — who was clearly impressed by Zimbabwe’s apparent progress — was quick to point out that her government will seek to replicate the Zimbabwean affirmative action model.

“I am impressed by your programmes in the agricultural sector,” she said.

“I have plans to send a group of people to come and learn from our brothers and sisters here.

“It is our hope that we will then begin to implement what we have seen here for the benefit of our country and Africa as a continent. Such empowerment initiatives are welcome.

“I was talking to the Vice President (Cde Mujuru) and told her that I have come to learn how we can increase the growing of flue-cured tobacco. In Malawi, we rely on burley tobacco.”

Zimbabwe and Malawi share a common history and heritage of solidarity and oneness.

During the colonial days, Malawi and Zimbabwe along with Zambia fought settler oppression under the ill-fated Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland.

Zimbabwe is also home to a large contingent of Malawian Diasporans.

Following the change of guard in Malawi last year, reactionary forces sort to place a wedge between the two Southern African countries, arguing the Banda administration, thought to be Western-inclined, would fail to co-exist with President Mugabe’s revolutionary leadership.

But President Banda’s visit last week was a clear indication that all is well and dandy between the two nations.

Given Zimbabwe’s suffering and ostracization at the hands of Britain and her Western allies through the illegal sanctions regime, African nations have been steadfast in their demands for Zimbabwe’s right to self-determination.

And who was better to throw her weight behind Zimbabwe’s protracted fight against needles and unfair exclusion than the Malawian leader?
Dr Banda made it clear that in spite of the conspiracy theories that seek to destabilise the harmonious relations between the two states, Malawi will continue to lobby for the removal of the illegal Western sanctions that are affecting ordinary people.

“My visit to Zimbabwe has provided me with a rare opportunity to see what is emerging in Zimbabwe. It gives hope to see that the destiny of Zimbabwe remains in the hands of Zimbabweans,” she said while officially opening the Zimbabwe International Trade Fair in Bulawayo on Friday.

“We will march with you and the rest of us shall blow the trumpet: ‘lift sanctions, they are hurting the ordinary people.’”

Just as is the case with Zimbabwe’s First Family, President Banda is also renowned for her charity work in Malawi, which is aimed at helping educate and empower women. She is known for her strong passion for women, children and the under-privileged.

In 1989, she started the National Association of Business Women, which raised cash for women to start small businesses by lending them start-up cash for small businesses.

Dr Banda is also founding member of the African Federation of Women Entrepreneurs (AFWE) which operates in 41 countries in Africa.

As a result, she made it a point during her visit that she passed through the Grace Mugabe Children’s Home.

During her tour of the home, she commended the First Family for serving the underprivileged.

“Throughout my adulthood I have been running a lot, including mobilising underprivileged children, but what I saw today makes me feel small and I am impressed by what the First Family has done to reach out to the masses.

“Perhaps people out there do not know that this is what the First Lady is doing here. If you get an opportunity to make money, make sure that you use that money for good and that is what the First Family is doing.

“For Africa to prosper, it means putting the money into households, particularly the poor ones. Once God has blessed us, we have a moral obligation to help underprivileged people.”

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