Joyce Banda is wearing a cheerful fuchsia-pink chitenge (Malawian dress), but looks tired.
We meet her in a Johannesburg hotel, where she has been staying on the return leg of her six-week trip – the longest she has been away from Africa – to the United States (US).
“The last few weeks have been hectic,” says Banda, Malawi’s former president and Africa’s second female head of state.
In the US, she had been rubbing shoulders with Hillary Clinton and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, garnering support for the Joyce Banda Foundation, which she has been running on behalf of women and children in Malawi for the last 16 years. In Johannesburg, she also met with Graça Machel, wife of the late Nelson Mandela, to discuss a maternal and child health program.
Back home, it was an equally hectic few months. In a year Malawi is celebrating 50 years of independence, the international press scrutinized it over a high-level graft scandal and chaotic elections.
Banda left Malawi a month after her country’s closely-contested – and controversial – May elections, which saw her and her People’s Party lose to Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP).
Banda was president of the tiny aid-dependent southern African country – among the world’s poorest – for a brief two years, following the death in office of her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika, the brother of the new president.
“I came into office at a very difficult time. The economy had almost collapsed, but in 24 months, I was able to turn [it] around,” says Banda.
Banda says Malawi’s economy grew from 1.8% in 2012 to 6.2% in 2014. She started well, winning accolades from the West for her economic reform plan and austerity measures, including the IMF-backed devaluation of the kwacha.
“What gives me pride is I left Malawi a better place than when I found it. When I came… we didn’t have fuel for a day, companies were scaling down… I had to work very quickly… By the time I was leaving statehouse, we had a harvest of 3.9 million metric tons. Companies were operating at 85%. We had a forex cover of three-and-a-half months [from a week]… We had fuel for 15 days at any given time… The one thing I wasn’t aware of when I came into office is there was so much corruption, and that corruption affects the gains you make.”
Banda claims she started the fight against corruption, revamping Malawi’s financial management system, which she says led to 68 arrests and 30 frozen accounts.
The corruption scandal, or Cashgate, saw senior government officials in Banda’s administration charged with misallocating funds. According to Baker Tilly, the British auditors hired by Banda with financial support from the British government, the state was defrauded of about $32 million, almost 1% of Malawi’s annual GDP, between April and September 2013.
But Banda says the financial system was abused by previous governments, dating back to 2001. She knew bringing it to light was not going to be easy.
“I was warned by colleagues across the continent it’s not easy to fight corruption… because you are fighting very powerful people who are benefitting from that kind of money, and if you are not careful, you will get smeared on, be fought through and through, dragged to the ground…,” says Banda.
“I decided to go back to 2010 and 2011, as I saw the benefit of us finding the truth, [as] that is the only way to move forward. The audit reports together with the K6 billion ($15 million) stolen while I was in office, and the K92 billion ($232 million) [from her predecessor’s time] are before parliament now. The good news is that the current president has also decided to go ahead with the fight against corruption,” says Banda.
The May elections brought more grief.
In the aftermath of the polls, which she alleged were rigged, there was a point when she says she had to take responsibility, call for a recount, step aside from contesting, and concede defeat.
“People have asked me, why did you not contest, why did you concede, when the Electoral Commission had also announced there was rigging? I felt it was important for me to allow peace to prevail. I have always said Malawians come first, this was an opportunity for me to demonstrate that. Malawians must have a leader of their choice, but Malawians should also not shed blood. There is life after statehouse and so much more I can do. So I chose to concede, and have no regrets.”
The buzz in Malawi now is what’s next for Banda? Will she return to politics or philanthropy?
Banda says she will continue championing women’s rights not just in Malawi but across Africa, and since her arrival in Malawi, has been involved with projects through her foundation.
Questions abound about her political future.
“There is a sense of deja vu, with the forex situation worsening by the day, and the kwacha weakening against the dollar and other major trading currencies, many fear that a repeat of fuel shortages that characterized the DPP government may come again. That coupled with the failure to meet some campaign promises may push Joyce Banda’s popularity up,” says Mabvuto Banda, a Malawi-based journalist.
There has also been speculation she might be charged for Cashgate.
“Interestingly, the Attorney General Kalekeni Kaphale [in August] lauded Joyce Banda for laying the foundation for the fight against Cashgate but he was quick to say more still needs to be done to effect more arrests. He also warned there will be no sacred cows, a statement that may have fueled speculation JB will not be left out,” says the reporter.
“Joyce Banda has a lot of powerful friends outside Malawi but it’s very difficult for me to see how she could be indicted when clearly many would interpret the indictment as trying to victimize her.”
“When you are innocent, when you are fighting for the people, prosecution does not matter,” Banda had said in Johannesburg, days before her return home.
“If I write a book about my life, it will be volumes and volumes. I want to write one book that [tells] any African woman reading it that [you] can be at the lowest in [your] life and bounce back. In my life, I have been down four times. Every woman who reads my book will know that when you fall, you get up, and run again.”
‘It’s The People-To-People Connections That Make A Lasting Impact’
Sahle-Work Zewde, Ethiopia’s first female president and the only serving female head of state in Africa, tells FORBES AFRICA why more leaders should use soft power to achieve shared growth.
Sahle-Work Zewde has her name etched in political history. A veteran public official having served as an ambassador to Senegal, Djibouti, and France between 1989 and 2006, before her presidency, Zewde was Special Representative to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union. In an email interview, Zwede, who was also on FORBES AFRICA’s list of ‘Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women’ for its March issue, dwells on why the ‘Africa we want’ will only become a reality with the positive and significant transformation of women’s lives:
In your position, how are you moving to achieve more gender proportionality in Ethiopian politics?
I see my being in this position as both an opportunity and responsibility. I know that it is political will that has opened the way for me and many other women to assume positions of power and influence in the Presidency and the ministerial cabinet in Ethiopia. This stride is a major step forward for Ethiopia as a nation and also for the continent. However, things can regress and go back to how they were unless we take strategic and intentional action to build on the momentum. For me, the way forward is using my platform to empower and embolden the women coming after me. This can occur in two ways. The first is working on empowering the women who are in the workforce and especially in positions of leadership to reach their full potential and engage in activities that provide opportunities for the next generation of women leaders. The second is helping female students at both the university and high school levels to ensure that we have a steady stream of competent, educated and confident women ready to take over. As women in power, we have a responsibility to all the women that will come after us to ensure that their trajectory is easier than ours.
How must Africa change in this regard?
Although more progress has been achieved in terms of delivering on our promise to provide support towards women’s education, health services, access to finance and political participation in a growing number of African countries, much more needs to be done. As a continent, we must go beyond the rhetoric and provide tangible solutions for African women in all sectors. The ‘Africa we want’ will only become a reality with the positive and significant transformation of women’s lives and the extent of their participation in all walks of life.
What do the words ‘power’ and ‘soft power’ mean to you?
There is a clear distinction between ‘power’ and ‘soft power’. While the first uses any means to achieve a goal, the latter relies on influence through communication, understanding and healthy discourse. Soft power does not resort to violence or coercive methods to achieve the results sought. Serving as a diplomat for a quarter century and at the United Nations for over a decade, I became very knowledgeable of the utility of soft power to reach consensus and effectuate change.
For me, the idea of soft power is what we need to promote as a continent. For decades, our continent has been ravaged by civil war, ethnic conflict and infighting.
However, Africa is now enjoying more economic growth than it has ever had. What we need now is more leaders to exercise soft power, finding what unites us to achieve a vision of shared growth. Traditional governance sees the government as the sole owner and executer of international relations. However, with our increasingly globalized world, it’s the people-to-people connections that make a true and lasting impact and bond. Leaders of today have to detach from traditional views and adopt the more global perspective the times require.
– Interviewed by Renuka Methil
Ghana Hopes To Benefit From Hosting Africa’s Free Trade Area Secretariat
Ghana has been chosen by the African Union (AU) to host the secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area. It beat other competing countries including Egypt, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar and Senegal to win the bid.
As a free trade area, member countries have come together and agreed not to impose tariffs, quotas and other trade barriers on goods and services. The agreement is expected to enlarge markets and diversify exports, particularly manufactured goods.
According to US-based think tank the Brookings Institute, intra-African trade stands at about 14%, while the share of manufactured goods to the rest of the world stands at 18%. Trade among Asian countries is much higher – at 59% – and even higher among European countries at 69%. The hope is that the African free trade area will boost trade across the continent by 52% by 2022 .
The core mandate of the secretariat will be to implement the free trade agreement, which has been ratified by 25 out of 54 countries. Once all have ratified the deal, it will create the world’s largest free trade area since the formation of the World Trade Organisation in 1995.
Africa’s free trade area will cover a market of 1.2 billion people with a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$2.5 trillion.
The secretariat’s job will be to recruit personnel, train them, and develop organisational capability. The secretariat will also have to implement policies handed down by the governing body, keep the media informed, organise conferences and identify potential funding sources. It will also monitor and evaluate the progress of policies and programmes.
This is a first for Ghana which has not hosted a continental secretariat. The hope is that it can emulate the success of other African capitals that have befitted from hosting the AU and the United Nations.
Addis Ababa is home to the AU headquarters while Nairobi hosts two of the UN’s biggest bodies. For its part, South Africa hosts the Pan-African Parliament.
The presence of the AU in Addis Ababa has been credited with an increase in property valuations as well as job creation.
In making its bid, Ghana took advantage of its strategic geographical location in West Africa. It has put a great deal of effort into making the country a gateway and a trade hub in West Africa.
Hosting the free trade area secretariat will come with costs and benefits – direct and indirect.
In establishing its credentials to host the secretariat, the Ghanaian government would have set out the country’s most notable achievements.
These would have included the fact that it’s been an exemplary member of the AU. For example, in 2007 it was among the first countries to be reviewed by the African Peer Review Mechanism – the self-assessment mechanism used to measure good governance.
The fact that it put its hand up sent a signal to other countries that the peer review process was credible.
Other factors that would have played in Ghana’s favour are that the country’s economy has been showing strong growth.
It is one of the fastest growing economies in the world with an averageGDP growth of about 6%. In addition, it comes second to Cape Verde in West Africa in terms of the United Nations Human Development index.
In one of the most unstable sub regions in the world, Ghana also has a tradition of relative peace and security, a key parameter for hosting a secretariat.
In addition, Ghana has had the advantage of learning about trade collaboration through its membership of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).
Costs and benefits
Ghana has been part of the 15-member Ecowas since its formation in 1990. The regional body introduced a common external tariff in 2015 .
While Ghana has enjoyed benefits from the arrangement, like many other West African States, it has not been able to harness its full potential. For example, border controls remain cumbersome, delaying transits due to the numerous check points, huge unofficial payments at the borders.
The most direct cost to the country will be the $10 million pledged by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to support setting up the secretariat. The AU is also expected to contribute funds and appeals have been made to international funding agencies.
Ghana’s hope is that hosting the secretariat will boost the hospitality sector – and more broadly the services sector – and generate increased international exposure.
There should also be a boost for job creation as the secretariat hires staff; ranging from economists to translators, administrators and technicians.
There is no clear deadline on when the secretariat is expected to be up and running. The AU itself still has to clear a number of hurdles, including adopting a structure, staff rules and regulations, and the secretariat’s budget.
Archive Documents Reveal The US And UK’s Role In The Dying Days Of Apartheid
It is a quarter of a century since the end of apartheid in South Africa. But it’s easy to forget how complex, difficult and violent the birth of full democracy really was. This was particularly true in KwaZulu-Natal, where battles between the African National Congress (ANC) and the mainly Zulu Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) claimed the lives of as many as 20,000 in the decade between 1984 and 1994.
In the three months before the first elections in April 1994 an estimated 1 000 people were killed. The British and Americans were becoming increasingly concerned. The conflict between Inkatha and the ANC was just one crisis: another was developing with far right white extremists, who were threatening to resort to violence.
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that there was an:
eight in 10 chance that violence will surge immediately before and during the election, when emotions are at their highest.
The agency also warned of the threat of a right wing coup, although it considered this “unlikely”. (This CIA report is available in hard copy only.)
As the situation grew increasingly tense, Britain’s Prime Minister John Major and the US’s President Bill Clinton became personally involved. Their interventions are shown in documents just released by the UK National Archives.
The documents reveal just what a close-run thing the first truly democratic election was, and how much time and effort Britain and the USA spent ensuring that the voting went ahead.
Prime Minister Major took a phone call from Nelson Mandela on 22 February, in which the ANC leader described the situation as “very difficult.” Major briefed Mandela on a meeting between the British ambassador and the Inkatha leader, Mangosuthu Buthelezi. He gave Mandela a full account of the conversation, which he warmly welcomed.
On 24 February there is the first indication of a joint Anglo-American mediation effort to resolve the crisis. This arose during planning for a visit to Washington by Major three days later.
Our starting point is that the situation has now deteriorated to the point where it seems very unlikely that left to themselves the South Africans will reach an agreement that will enable to participate in the elections. The consequences are likely to be very serious.
The British suggested that Major and Clinton might “offer their joint help to the transition process”.
The following day – having held discussions with Mandela, Buthelezi and President Frederik de Klerk – the British ambassador in Pretoria, Sir Anthony Reeve, was able to report that all three were prepared to go along with the Anglo-American initiative, although with some reservations. The ambassador concluded:
These responses do, I think, give us the green light to consult the Americans in detail on our thinking.
The proposal was discussed between Mandela and Buthelezi at a meeting on March 1 and both leaders agreed to “explore” the possibility of international mediation. Lord Carrington, who had negotiated the end of Rhodesia and its transition to Zimbabwe in 1980, was on a lecture tour of South Africa. He was approached by the ANC’s Thabo Mbeki who asked whether he might act as one of a panel of mediators.
Others suggested were US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former Tanzanian head of state Julius Nyerere.
There followed intensive discussions between London and Washington, over how such mediation might work; indeed, Carrington and Kissinger travelled to South Africa. In the end a failure to agree on the terms of reference for the mediators, and South African government fears that the elections might be delayed, put paid to the plan.
It has been claimed the crisis – the most immediate was that Buthelezi was threatening to boycott the poll – was resolved by surprising last minute mediation by Kenyan Professor, John Okumu. Other Commonwealth envoys who had excellent contacts with both the ANC leadership and Buthelezi, including the late Ghanaian diplomat Moses Anafu, doubt this, arguing that forces that led Buthelezi into the election were much bigger.
Indeed, Buthelezi’s brinkmanship had ensured key constitutional concessions. Okumu’s intervention seems then a face-saving device for the IFP leader. A joint statement was agreed between Mandela, Buthelezi and de Klerk on 19 April, which allowed the election to take place just a week later (April 26-28).
It had been a close-run thing and South Africa’s first truly democratic election almost came to grief. But there were two more potential obstacles.
In the tense run-up to polling day, a report on the role of the apartheid state in stoking internal tension and violence was published. The Commission of Inquiry Regarding the Prevention of Public Violence and Intimidation, led by Justice Richard Goldstone had been established in 1991: its report was published on 21 April 1994.
Judge Goldstone’s investigations revealed that sections of the South African Police had armed Inkatha, and pointed to attempts by senior police officers to subvert the work of his enquiry.
The charges were explosive and for a while the judge and his family were clearly at risk from white extremists. With de Klerk’s support and the knowledge of Mandela, Goldstone, his wife and a “key witness” (a former South African police officer) asked whether they might come to Britain. John Major agreed, and they were given temporary asylum and a safe house.
The second obstacle was the South African government’s clandestine chemical and biological weapons programme, known as “Project Coast.”The British Foreign Secretary, Douglas Hurd, contacted Washington about the possibility of issuing a formal public protest unless President de Klerk publicly admitted his government’s involvement in the use of these weapons against ANC and Namibian prisoners.
The British had apparently intervened to prevent the proliferation of these weapons to other rogue states or terrorist groups. On April 11 the US and British ambassadors delivered their protest to President de Klerk – which apparently did the trick.
There was an agreement that all the chemical and biological systems would be destroyed and one of the key South African experts, Wouter Basson, who had travelled to Libya on several occasions, was subsequently prosecuted.
The April 1994 election proved to be a watershed for South Africa. In technical terms, the election was a fiasco, but it was a political triumph, according to the Commonwealth’s leading election official, Carl Dundass. Inkatha’s surprising victory in Natal-KwaZulu strongly suggest Natal “horsetrading” involved overturning an actual ANC victory to manage anticipated post-election violence.
Despite all the violence, tension and drama the election ended apartheid and allowed Major to phone Mandela with his congratulations – a highly satisfactory conclusion to an intense period of international diplomacy.
-Sue Onslow; Reader, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study
-Martin Plaut; Senior Research Fellow, Horn of Africa and Southern Africa, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study
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