by Rachel Ogbu
History created another page turner on Saturday 7 April as Malawian Vice President, Joyce Banda, rose to power following the death of 78-year-old President Bingu wa Mutharika, who died on Thursday in Lilongwe of cardiac arrest.
Her takeover of power is reminiscent to Nigeria’s President Goodluck rise to power story who in similar circumstances after President Yar’ Adua died was handed the power to lead but hers wasn’t just luck or opportunity, Banda’s struggle for justice and change got her the seat.
Now Africa’s second female President after Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Southern Africa’s first, Banda’s steadfast resistance to Mutharika’s efforts to force her from office during a succession battle paid off tremendously.
Banda, who rose to prominence as a relentless women’s rights advocate, has had to navigate the country’s turbulent political waters in recent years. The late president had tapped Banda as his deputy in the 2009 elections, but then ousted her from his party the following year.
Banda steadfastly resisted Mutharika’s efforts to force her from office during a succession battle when the late president decided to groom his brother Peter to become his Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) candidate in 2014 polls.
Then, as head of her own People’s Party, she emerged as one of Mutharika’s fiercest critics, castigating his management of an economy hobbled by fuel shortages. It was clear then, if anyone had doubted that Banda was not going under quietly.
She was listed in Forbes Magazine 2011 as the third most powerful woman in Africa, and prior to becoming president, Banda was Malawi’s first female vice-president.
Banda was born on 12 April, 1950, in Malawi’s capital of Zomba. She began her career as a secretary and soon became a well-known public figure. In 2011, she founded and became leader of the People’s Party. She was also Member of Parliament and Minister for Gender, Children’s Affairs and Community Services.
Prior to an active career in politics she was the founder of the Joyce Banda Foundation, founder of the National Association of Business Women (NABW), Young Women Leaders Network and the Hunger Project.
Banda remains a role model to many women in Malawi for her fight for her gender in a male-dominated society.
She is married to retired chief justice Richard Banda. Her family is among the most influential in Malawi.
Sources: Agency reports.