Moments before leaving Malawi on Sept. 15, John Vissers, moderator of the 138th General Assembly, met with President Joyce Banda.
Her excellency was on the same flight to Johannesburg; she was headed to the United Nations. She asked Vissers to pray for her and for the challenges before her.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, according to the UN. Banda has been president only since April, when her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, died suddenly,
She was studying at Royal Roads University in Victoria. “One day I was in Canada,” she joked with Vissers. “I woke up and I was president.”
She is only the second African woman to be president. She told Vissers Africa needs strong women and she is grateful to African men for letting women also be leaders.
Banda has been a leader in Malawi for many years. She was vice-president from 2009 until Mutharika’s death.
The last few months have been very challenging for Banda and her cabinet. She has followed instructions from the International Monetary Fund and let the Malawian currency find its own market value. The immediate response, not surprisingly, has been for the kwacha’s value to crash and inflation to spike. There have been strikes throughout the country for the past months, and Banda has been criticized constantly in the daily newspapers and on the radio.
Banda told Vissers she was thankful for the support of the Presbyterian Church in Canada and for our prayers.
A feature report on the moderator’s Malawi trip will appear in the January 2013 issue of the Record.