Joyce Hilda Banda née Mtila (born 12 April 1950) is a Malawia Malawian politician who has been the President of Malawi since 7 April 2012. She is the founder and leader of the People's Party, created in 2011.
An educator and grassroots women's rights activist, she was Minister of Foreign Affairs from 2006 to 2009 and Vice-President of Malawi from May 2009 to April 2012.
Banda took office as President following the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika. She is Malawi's fourth president and its first female president. Prior to becoming president, she served as the country's first female vice president.
She was also a 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.
Forbes named President Banda as the 71st most powerful woman in the world and the most powerful woman in Africa.
Personal and family life
Joyce Hilda Ntila was born on 12 April 1950 in Malemia, a village in the Zomba District of Nyasaland (now Malawi). Her father was an accomplished and popular police brass band musician. She began her career as a secretary and became a well-known figure during the rule of dictator Kamuzu Banda (no relation).
She has a Cambridge School Certificate, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Early Childhood Education from Columbus University a Bachelor of Social Studies in Gender Studies from the Atlantic International University, USA and a Diploma in Management of NGOs from the International Labour Organization (ILO) Centre in Turch, Italy. Currently, she is reading for a Master of Arts Degree in Leadership at Royal Roads University in Canada. She married Roy Kachale with whom she had three children. By age 25, she was living in Nairobi, Kenya. In 1975, a growing women's movement in Kenya motivated Banda to take her three children and leave what she has described as an abusive marriage. Her marriage to Roy Kachele ended in 1981. She is now married to Richard Banda, retired Chief Justice of the Republic of Malawi with whom she has two children.
Between 1985 and 1997 Banda managed and established various businesses and organisations including Ndekani Garments, (1985), Akajuwe Enterprises (1992), and Kalingidza Bakery (1995). Her success moved her to help other women achieve financial independence and break the cycles of abuse and poverty.
She is sister to Anjimile Oponyo, former CEO of the never-built Raising Malawi Academy for Girls founded by Madonna. Madonna dismissed Banda's sister from the position amidst controversy. Anjimile Oponyo sued Madonna who responded with a counter-suit. The case was settled out of court.
Public offices (1999–2009)
Joyce Banda entered politics in 1999. She won a parliamentary seat in Malawi's second democratic election as a member of president Bakili Muluzi's party. She represented the Zomba-Malosa constituency. Muluzi named her Minister for Gender and Community Services. As minister, she fought to enact the Domestic Violence Bill, which had failed for seven years previously. She designed the National Platform for Action on Orphans and Vulnerable Children and the Zero Tolerance Campaign Against Child Abuse.
In 2004, she was reelected as a member of Muluzi's Party. Bingu wa Mutharika became President. Even though Banda was not a member of his party, Mutharika appointed her as foreign minister in 2006. She led her country to cut ties with Taiwan and establish relations with Beijing. She said the switch would bring economic benefits to Malawi. In 2010, China finished the construction of a new parliament building for Malawi.
Vice President (2009–2012)
Banda ran as the vice-presidential candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) in the 2009 presidential election, running alongside Mutharika, the DPP presidential candidate. She served as Malawi's first female vice-president, before becoming the country's first woman president on Mutharika's death. In a surprise move by the DPP, Joyce Banda and second vice president Khumbo Kachali were fired as the vice Presidents of the DPP on 12 December 2010 for undefined 'anti-party' activities. In attempts to ostracize her, the president had continued to give roles that were previously held by her to Callista Mutharika who was included in the cabinet in September 2011. The court had blocked attempts by Bingu wa Mutharika to fire her as Vice-President on constitutional grounds. This included attempts to seize her official government vehicle and to block her from registering her new party. On 8 September 2011, the role of Vice President was left out in a cabinet reshuffle. However, she was still the legal Vice-President of the country as mandated by the constitution. She was urged by DPP spokesman Hetherwick Ntaba to resign as Vice-President.
Factions in DPP
The relationship between her and the previous President of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika had become increasingly tense because of Mutharika's attempts to position his own brother, Peter Mutharika as the successor of the party and as the next president of the country. Although she was fired from the position as Vice President of the DPP together with second Vice President Khumbo Kachali, she continued to serve as Vice-President of Malawi as stipulated in the constitution of the Republic of Malawi. This move led to mass resignations in the DPP and the formation of networks that supported her candidacy to become President of Malawi in the 2014 general election. The DPP denied that mass resignations had occurred and insisted that they were only a few.
Joyce Banda is the founder and leader of the People's Party, formed in 2011 after Banda was expelled from the ruling DPP when she refused to endorse President Mutharika's younger brother Peter Mutharika as the successor to the presidency for the 2014 general election.
Transition of Power
On 5 April, President Mutharika died. After his death, the government failed to notify the public, in a timely manner, that the president had died. This led to the fear of a constitutional crisis in Malawi.
Agence France-Presse reported Malawi’s ex-President Bakili Muluzi as insisting on "constitutional order", saying the vice president must automatically take power under the constitution. "I am calling for a constitutional order, for continued peace and order. The laws of Malawi are very clear that the vice president takes over" when the sitting president can no longer govern. We have to avoid a situation where there is disorder. Let us follow the constitution. We have no choice but follow the constitution. It's very important that there must be peace and calm." Malawi's security forces also wanted the constitutional order to prevail. The Malawi Law Society confimed that under section 83(4) of the constitution of Malawi, she is the legitimate successor to the Presidency.
On 7 April, Malawi's cabinet sought a court order to block Banda from becoming president. In turn, she phoned the army commander, General Henry Odillo, and asked if he would support her. He agreed and stationed troops around her house.
Her Excellency Mrs. Joyce Banda was sworn in on Saturday, 7 April, as the President of the Republic of Malawi, the first woman to hold the office. Chief Justice Mr. Lovemore Munlo presided over the ceremony which was held at the National Assembly in Lilongwe. After she was sworn in, she appealed for national unity. "I want all of us to move into the future with hope and with the spirit of oneness and unity... I hope we shall stand united and I hope that as a God-fearing nation we allow God to come before us, because if we don't do that then we have failed."
The Malawian and international media reported on Joyce Banda’s smooth inauguration. They called it a triumph for democracy. A Malawi Sunday Times editorial said that the new president’s inauguration had “helped to entrench and cement a democratic culture in the country.”
On 26 April 2012, President Banda chose her cabinet; 23 ministers and nine deputy ministers. She gave herself several key portfolios to strengthen her own power as the country's leader.
During Mutharika's presidency, Malawi was left in a poor economic situation due to foreign relations under the Mutharika administration. Within the last year of Mutharika's presidency, Britain, the United States, Germany, Norway, the European Union, the World Bank, and the African Development Bank had all suspended financial aid. They had expressed concern for Mutharika's attacks on democracy domestically and his increasingly erratic policies. In March 2012, Mutharika told these foreign donors to "go to hell". He accused them of plotting to bring down his government. Part of Banda's challenge as President is to restore diplomatic ties with the aid donors. She also has the challenge of restoring diplomatic ties with Malawi's immediate neighbours like Mozambique and Botswana.
Within the first week of her presidency, Banda launched a diplomatic offensive to repair Malawi's international relations. She spoke to Henry Bellingham of the United Kingdom's Foreign Office. He assured her that a new British envoy will be sent "within the shortest time possible." She spoke to the United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Clinton promised to resume discussions on the $350 million energy grant as soon as possible. Banda announced plans to speak to Baroness Ashton of the European Union's Foreign Affairs office and the Malawi's IMF Resident Representative, Ruby Randall. She and Zambian president Michael Sata had also conferred about resuming close working relations. At least partly to further please donors, Banda's administration also refused in June 2012 to host that July's African Union summit on the grounds that the AU had insisted that Sudan's president Omar al-Bashir be given assurances that Malawi would refuse to serve the International Criminal Court arrest warrant against him; the Cabinet decided that such conditions were unacceptable. President Banda is named by Forbes as the 71st most powerful woman in the world, the highest African name on the list.
On 18 May, Banda announced her intention to overturn Malawi's ban on homosexuality. The measure was reported to already have the support of a majority of MPs. If successful, it would make Malawi the second African nation to legalize same-sex sexual activity since 1994.
In June 2012, in order to reduce the government spendings, Joyce Banda decided to sell her jet and a fleet of 60 luxury cars. Her Dassault jet brought $15 million in revenue.
After the flag was changed in 2010 by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), there was public opposition. Many groups challenged the legitimacy of the flag. 28 May 2012, Banda led the nation's MPPs to vote to revert the flag back to its independence flag, which was originally adopted in 1964. All parties, except the DPP, voted in favor of this reverting to the independence flag.
Joyce Banda Foundation
Prior to becoming vice-president, she was the founder and CEO of the Joyce Banda Foundation. for better Education. A charitable foundation that assists Malawian children and orphans through education. It a complex of Primary and Secondary School situated in Chimwankhunda area of Blantyre. It includes an Orphan Care Center that consists of 6 centres and 600 children. It also assists the surrounding villages by providing micro-credit to 40 women and 10 youth groups. Provided seeds to over 10,000 farmers, and has provided other donations. The foundation has also constructed 4 clinics in 4 of the 200 villages it assists. the foundation also assists in rural development.It has a partnership with the Jack Brewer Foundation, a global development foundation founded by NFL star, Jack Brewer.
National Association of Business Women
She is the founder of the National Association of Business Women in Malawi that was established in 1990. It is a registered non-profit foundation in Malawi. The association aims to lift women out of poverty by strengthening their capacity and empowering them economically. This is a social network of 30,000 women, dedicated to supporting women's businesses and supporting women that want to participate in business. Its activities include business training, technical training, record keeping and management skills. They work towards creating dialogue with the policy makers to make policies favourable to women business owners. Its current director is Mary Malunga. The foundation has a partnership with the Netherlands based Humanist Institute for Development Cooperation (Hivos) at The Hague since 2003.
Philanthropy and development initiatives
She has been involved with many grassroots projects with women since the age of 25 to bring about policy change, particularly in education. She founded the Joyce Banda Foundation for Better Education. She also founded the Young Women Leaders Network, National Association of Business Women and the Hunger Project in Malawi. She (jointly with President Joaquim Chissano of Mozambique) was awarded the 1997 Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger by the Hunger Project, a New York-based non-governmental organization. She used the prize money to fund the building of the Joyce Banda foundation for children. In 2006, she recevied the International Award for the Health and Dignity of Women for her dedication to the rights of the women of Malawi by the Americans for United Nations Population Fund.
She served as commissioner for "Bridging a World Divided" alongside personalities such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, and United Nations Human Rights Commissioner, Mary Robinson. She was also member of the Advisory Board for Education in Washington DC, and on the advisory board for the Federation of World Peace and Love in Taiwan (China).
As part of a government move on austerity measures in October 2012, Banda cut her salary by 30%. She also announced that the presidential jet would be sold.
Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health
In 2010, she became a member of the Global Leaders Council for Reproductive Health, a group of sixteen sitting and former heads of state, high-level policymakers and other leaders committed to advancing reproductive health for lasting development and prosperity. Chaired by former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, these leaders seek to mobilize the political will and financial resources necessary to achieve universal access to reproductive health by 2015 – a key target of the UN Millennium Development Goals.
- Woman of the Year, Malawi, 1997
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- Women of Substance Award, 2010, African Women Development Fund
- Africa Prize for Leadership for the Sustainable End of Hunger, 1997, Hunger Project of NY
- International award for entrepreneurship development, 1998, Africa Federation of Woman Entrepreneurs and Economic Commission for Africa (ECA)
- 100 Heroines award, 1998, Rochester, New York
- Certificate of Honors, 2001, Federation of World Peace and Love, Taiwan, Republic of China
- Most powerful Woman in the World 2012, Forbes Magazine - rank # 71
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