JB’s Lesson From Mandela Not Enough:We Are Yet To See Her Falling In Love With Malawians Not For The Sake Of Their Votes But….Many people in the country have praised President Joyce Banda for the
moving speech she made at Nelson Mandela’s funeral service in South
Africa’s Eastern Cape village of Qunu last Sunday.
In her speech, Banda claimed to have drawn inspiration from Madiba on
her journey to becoming the first female president of Malawi. She also
said to have learnt the virtue of forgiveness and that leadership is
about falling in love with the people and people falling in love with
Well, as interesting as this might sound, some of us feel there are
more lessons the president and all political leaders in the country
could draw from this iconic figure.
The first lesson is on power transition. Our politicians particularly
the presidency should learn to relinquish power when their term of
office expires. Mandela willingly stepped down from power after only
one term yet he struggled for 27 years to occupy that high office.
This is contrary to what we see in the country. Presidents do attempt
to cling to the whims of power by either pushing for a third term or
passing the mantle of power to anointed heir, son or brother at the
expense of other capable leaders within the party structure.
Tata Mandela despite being a freedom fighter showed commitment to
democracy by handing over the mantle to Thabo Mbeki the next person on
the line. This has never occurred in Malawi.
In the same vain, Mandela compromised his political career when
enacting and amending the laws of the country for the sake of a larger
goal and common good. He remained true to his democratic ideals of
equality and justice to all the people regardless of their political
or social strata.
What do we see in Malawi? Our parliament dances to the tune of the
presidency by enacting laws that only favours the ruling class. We
have had what people described as ‘draconian’ laws passed and assented
in the country by our leaders amidst people’s disapproval. Who can
Unlike political leaders in the country who beat their own drum,
glorify themselves in honourary doctorate degrees and titles such as
your excellency, honourable, Ngwazi, Kuntunda, Mose, Aaron,
Change-golo, etcetera, Mandela an Attorney at law by profession had
numerous honourary doctorate degrees but was never addressed in line
with his accolades. He was simply Nelson Mandela, Madiba if you like.
He refused to be praised, worshipped or treated as a saint. He
admitted his imperfection as a human being when he said, ’I am not a
saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.’
In Malawi, political leaders think they are infallible. They refuse to
take advice or shallow their pride when they make simple and obvious
Like president Barrack Obama said in his eulogy at the Soccer City
Stadium during Mandela’s Memorial Service, leaders across the world
need to embrace the spirit of ubunthu. This is an African concept
relating to how people are bound together in many ways that are
invisible to the eye. It is all about oneness of humanity. According
to Obama, any claim of achievement by any leadership should entail
caring and bettering the lives of people and Mandela exemplified this.
If the ideal of ubunthu was embraced by our leaders both past and
present, we would not be talking about k1.7 billion donor money going
into a personal account, k61 billion wealth belonging to an individual
at the expense of 14 million people not to mention the infamous
cash-gate scandal where over k20 billion is embezzled by few
individuals. Mandela does not have a record of enriching himself,
family members nor close associates as is always the case here in
Our leaders must also learn from Mandela the power of action. Madiba
had a vision of South Africa as a country where racial equality, equal
opportunity and freedom for all would be the norm. His struggle
therefore was to achieve this.
Who can fault Madiba when he said, ‘I have fought against white
domination and I have fought against black domination. I’ve cherished
the idea of a democratic and free society in which all persons live
together in harmony and in equal opportunity.’
Is it not ironic that our leaders are failing to fight against the
domination of hunger, poverty and equal economic opportunity. When
will the country’s own Madiba emerge on the political scene to act on
behalf of justice and developmental progress that would dignify the
Our country is about to clock five decades of self determination and
yet we continue to be confronted with the very same tribulations. Is
it not a disgrace that our national anthem, which is our prayer,
highlights the very same enemies hunger, disease and envy fifty years
down the road of autonomy? This is a sign that our leaders are failing
to lead us to the Promised Land. They are full of rhetoric other than
I am consequently persuaded to think that if the composer of our
national anthem Mr. Michael Fredrick Sauka comes back to life today;
we might have a remix of this national hymn to sound something like
O God bless our land of Nyasaland,
Keep it the land of quietness,
Put down each and every adversary,
Hunger, disease, envy, corruption, black-outs and cash-gate,
Join together all our hearts as one,
That we be free from meekness,
And give us a leader like Madiba,
Bless each and every one of us,
And mother Malawi.
Mandela is now dead and buried. May our leaders reflect on the legacy
left by this great man of the twentieth century and decide on the
direction Malawi should take to address numerous challenges rocking
the country and make Malawi a better place to live in.
As per president Banda’s lesson on leadership, we are yet to see her
falling in love with Malawians not for the sake of their votes but a
genuine and sincere desire to uplift their living standards. In the
present situation, it is just difficult for people to fall in love
with any leader as was the case with Madiba and his people.