I came to know President Joyce Banda after my mother had won the Business Woman of the Year title and the late Mary Kaphwereza Banda was the Minister. I never thought much about that smiling face which patted us on the head.
In 2002 when I joined the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation, she was Chairperson of ADMARC, but by then she had already won the Hunger prize and some of my closest relations or freinds were going to the new school in Chimwankhunda called the Joyce Banda foundation.
There was a UDF Women Action Group and they decided to travel wide and far and support fellow women and other potential UDF candidates. She supported them by providing them transport, paying for Journalists allowances but she never appeared at any of their rallies.
Everybody knew JB was a politician, but her Husband Chief Justice Richard Banda was in office, she respected the office until he retired thats when we knew JB the politician.
In 2003 UDF had a convention following the failure of the President Bakili Muluzi's third term bid. There were four names that stood out in scheming the outcome of the convention, among them JB and Cassim Chilumpha.
Muluzi was furious at the attempted coup as he only had Justin Malewezi, Kennedy Mwakwangwala and a few others from his camp. Almost all his men had fallen. I started documenting the rise of JB.
My yet to be released book 20 most powerful Malawian women placed her number three after Mama Cecilia Kadzamira and Vera Chirwa, but history has been kind to correct me, that she belongs to the top category.
JB life history as I researched has been of struggle, her business, political and social life has suffered the same tragedy, sudden attacks and at most when many could have left her dignity and character questioned.
In the analysis of her life, JB has been at her best when faced with opposition. She has never changed course and fear has not been part of her chosen path.
After being appointed running mate to late President Bingu wa Mutharika, a lot was said and written. Some people even avoided her altogether, and instead of going down the route of safety to be in good books with a few, JB chose to side with majority of Malawians.
In politics, history is kind to those who stand up with the people and be counted.
My first article on the rift between President Banda and her former party the DPP was when during the Kasiya bye-elections, she blasted Television Malawi. Here was a sitting Vice President who blasted a Government television station, it was a killer news to me.
However I was scared when the story came out, I was not sure of her reaction as State Media went to town on her and my newspaper was seen as siding with her. I was scared she would blame it on my over zeleaousness in looking for hard news than the positives she said- a trade mark of many politicians.
She called that evening and told me "Please advise us when we go wrong." I have never felt confortable sharing my piece of mind with a politician since then. I am accused of speaking my mind and giving unsolicited advice.
From the Kasiya rally to her expulsion, I was interested in what JB had done, who gave her courage and why she withstood the pressure. I gave myself two things, either she is the greatest actress who can smile and act in any situation, or she is someone who works on her conviction, faith and determination. I chose the latter, that she is a woman of substance.
President Banda as I found out had touched many women before with her works, many men before in Zomba and other areas with her initiatives and educated thousands of people through her different works in Zomba and Blantyre.
She is the JB I believed and trust.
Her first Peoples Party rally in Central Region was in Ntchisi and we first prayed at an Anglican Church at the boma, she sang and prayed with the ordinary women from sorrounding villages. She was Joyce Banda and not the Vice President I saw at that Church.
When we went to the rally, she was a determined woman who spoke from her heart on te plummeting prices of tobacco, poverty among the people and how equal sharing could be achieved. I have a collection of photos of her walking, dancing and being a normal person in Kasungu, Ntchisi, Dedza, Mchinji, Kasiya and many other places she visited during the formative stages of the Peoples Party.
I know the Peoples Party women, the achievers, orange partners, the youth who she has inspired not to rely on handouts, but to contribute whatever they can to make a difference. The old women in Mzimba and Mchinji at Kamwendo can tell you the rest.
The Joyce Banda I have come to know and respect, is the mother who speaks on empowering the poor from her heart. She does not read the script nor pretend she knows, she asks questions at every stage of her statement: 'sichoncho'.
The Joyce Banda who inspires me was the one who removed all the trappings of the Vice Presidency and went to sit down on a mat in Ndirande to condole a family of the victim of Police brutality.
The JB I know that well is the one who kept telling the people empowerment is possible even at grassroot sharing of livestock such as goats, cattle, small processing plants and mechanisation of farming.
The Joyce Banda I know is the one that could go and hug an old woman anywhere and feel confortable.
My favourate quotes of President Joyce Banda remain when she spoke after attacks on women in Lilongwe and someone tried to misintepret. She said it was a sympton of the larger problem among te youth.
When she walked almost a kilometre to see Atupele Muluzi, I asked her why she decided to walk, she said, "It is a necessary evil that we can be free."
She is at her best when she speaks her mind, vision and dream.
I pray she walks that vision and dream with passion. I pray the Joyce Banda of Kamwendo handing over that house to an old woman, would be the Joyce Banda at New State House.
I see Mardef and YEDEF loans playing a crucial role in grassroot empowerment based on her vision of what she saw in Kenya and farm mechanisation. I believe she has the footing, she needs just to walk the talk.
She is now my President, the President of Malawi. She is no longer 'Mateni' who could pick up a phone and call at anytime. Who could joke about my pick on headlines and how it put her in trouble. I told her and still will tell her, "you spoke the truth."
Many political leaders decided to be quite when Malawians were suffering, fearing the backlash on national media, she went out and stayed with Malawians, assuring them there is a better tommorrow ahead if we persevered.
Unfortunately for Masteni, who spoke of the garlic project she had started in Dedza, she is also a pioneer in Sub Saharan Africa. She needs to walk and be greater than any other woman before her.
Her perfomance, will determine the future of Women in Politics in Southern Africa.
She becomes the giant, larger than Winnie Madikizela Mandela, Graca Machel, Mama Ngina Kenyatta, Mama Cecilia Kadzamira and Madame Sally Mugabe.
JB has entered history of the Southern Africa and she will be a crucial player on women issues, empowerment and definition of what they will be in the next decade or century.
The Joyce Banda I believe will succeed, if she only walks her path, vision and dream. The many trying to reach her now, will just confuse her.
I pray for my President. The First Woman President in Southern Africa to rise and tell the World why Malawians are the greatest people on earth and why our Women are the special generation of leaders.
I told her last time at NONM offices opening: There is something about women in Domasi and Zomba at large. The JB's, Dorothy Ngomas and others, so determined, opinionated, but leaders who have made a mark in our lives.
The journey will not be smooth, this blog hopes she will just pay attention to our honest assessments and take right direction!