As Joyce Banda faced electoral humiliation, it was hard not to think of how it could ahve been for Malawi’s first female president.
Critics say she was politically naive, failed to deal convincingly with a major corruption scandal, and was too often absent. Her famous quote at Nelson Mandela’s funeral got her off to an encouraging start.
“I learned that leadership is about falling in love with the people and the people falling in love with you. It is about serving the people with selflessness, with sacrifice and with the need to put the common good ahead of personal interests.”
It looks as though she was a naive politician who found herself out of her depth. Banda was an accidental president whose rise came suddenly in 2012 when the increasingly authoritarian rule of incoming president Peter Mutharika’s brother, Bingu wa Mutharika, was cut short by a fatal heart attack.
As vice-president, she was his successor but Mutharika’s allies conspired to block her. So she turned to the head of the army for support and he gave it.
SIx months in to her reign, though, it seems Malawi’s public had grown tired of their ‘absent president’, a label attached to her by consumer rights activist John Kapito. Banda was more popular abroad than in Malawi itself.
A Scandal, a slowing down and further ‘messing up’ of the country’s economy, an ill advised alliance with Robert Mugabe of neighbouring Zimbabwe have all led to her defeat. She might even be facing jail.
Peter Mutharika was declared the winner of the country’s disputed presidential election on after garnering 36.4% of the votes cast. Former preacher Lazarus Chakwera was in second place with 28%. Mrs Banda accepted defeat after the High Court ordered the release of the results. She came third with 20% of the vote.
“I look forward to shaking hands with her to bury the past. I come to her with an olive branch. Don’t let it drop,” Mr Mutharka said.
What next for Africa’s only other female president?