Arriving at Kamuzu Airport
The second female president of an African nation happens to be flying in first class on my flight from Johannesburg to Lilongwe on April 1. Joyce Banda, president of Malawi, has just completed a several week foreign tour.
As we land, I could see a large welcoming assembled on the tarmac. An announcement is made that there is a VIP on board and that we will have to remain on the plane until the VIP is escorted off the plane. Puzzled looks are exchanged among the passengers as military, press and a red carpet converge on the plane.
My window seat on the left side of the plane allows for a full view of the ceremony which includes choirs singing, a band playing, a short speech and a walk past a long line of uniforms.
A huge crowd women and men wearing Banda's party colour (orange) and her printed image and party symbols on their dresses and shirts is assembled. I'm told that this is a huge waste of human resources as they have likely been waiting there all morning and have come in from around the country.
President Banda ascended to the presidency as she was the vice-president when the former president, affectionally named Bingo, died last year. They were from opposing political parties and so she represents an even smaller portion of the popular vote than her predecessor. She is struggling against inflation (about 90% over the last 12 months), hunger, corruption, and the other normal challenges of governing the world's 9th poorest nation.