The former deputy speaker of Malawi's national assembly presented her nomination papers to the Electoral Commission Wednesday ahead of this year's general election. Loveness Gondwe's move makes her the first female presidential candidate to represent a major political party in the country's history. But critics describe her move as a political stunt, claiming that this year's election is expected to be hotly contested between incumbent President Bingu Wa Mutharika and former President Bakili Muluzi. Gondwe is running on the platform of change from the old ways of politicking, promising to improve the living standards of the average Malawian. From Malawi's capital, Lilongwe, Loveness Gondwe tells reporter Peter Clottey that she is the right person for the presidency after several male presidents failed to alleviate the suffering of the Malawi population.
"There are so many things I would like to achieve. First and foremost, I would like to create jobs for the youth. There are so many dropouts or sometimes those who have finished their form fours or tertiary education, and they don't have employment, and I would like to create employment for them. I would also like to create employment to promote women, the maternal death rate is too high in Malawi, and I would like to increase birth benefits," Gondwe said.
She said there was need to encourage teachers to bring out the best in Malawi students.
"The civil servants are not getting paid well, especially teachers, and our education is deteriorating because the teachers are not paid well. So I would just double their salary and increase their rural allowance so that many of those teachers would go to the rural areas and teach our children there. Again, to also support our farmers because agriculture is the backbone of the Malawi economy," she said.
Gondwe said Malawians are demanding change in the way of doing things and claims she is the right person to deliver the change they so demand.
"There are so many people, who would like to have change because we have had men. But we have not achieved anything. There has been so much intolerance and as a country we are not moving ahead. And I would like to come up with a different approach to doing things and want to be the candidate with a difference, and I'm sure so many people are ready to support me," Gondwe pointed out.
She said although women usually don't run for the presidency, she is currently enjoying a lot of support from both men and women who are demanding change.
"I am getting a lot of support and in my party there are so many male aspiring candidates and women candidates. I've got a lot of support from both men and women and of course, the youth. So those people who doubt me should wait and see after the election in May," she said.
Gondwe said she has been on the political scene for a long time, which she claims has raised her profile ahead of the general election.
"Well, maybe because I'm not new in politics. I have been a member of parliament for some time and this is going to be my third time in this election. The people know how much I have done and how much I do fight for my country and they know what type of leader I am. So I'm sure nobody can doubt my candidature or what I would be as the first woman president of Malawi. And I have seen women delivering more than men because women are not as corrupt as men are," Gondwe pointed out.
She said there was need for reconciliation after often heated public spats between former President Muluzi and incumbent President Mutharika.
"We should forget our past and we should know that everybody has got his own problems and we have got positives as well as challenges during both of their terms of Bakili Muluzi and Bingu Wa Mutharika. But we should forge ahead as a country without looking back because we are all Malawians and we should be patriotic to our country. You know, Muluzi may have done something bad, but we shouldn't really capitalize on that, and Bingu may also have done something bad to the country, but we shouldn't capitalize on that," she said.
Gondwe called on Malawians to help build the country.
"The foundation has already been made we should keep up building up our country as Malawians and be united because this is one Malawi and one nation," Gondwe pointed out.
Muluzi is constitutionally barred from running as a presidential candidate after serving two full terms in office from 1994 to 2004. The electoral commission, however, is expected to test his challenge to rule next week, putting to rest the controversy surrounding the former president's candidacy.