'No Longer a Mere Person': Malawi Leader to Get New Portraits


Malawi is to reprint thousands of presidential portraits to add "Doctor" to Joyce Banda's name, the government said Friday, raising eyebrows amid a tough austerity drive.

South Korea's Jeonju University last week awarded Banda an honorary doctorate for her no-nonsense reforms since taking office.

"We want to reflect the new title of the President as she will be addressed by Malawians and the whole world," Information Minister Moses Kunkuyu said.

"The President is no longer a mere person."

But the reprinting, which is rumored to be funded by taxpayers, has been viewed as wasteful.

The impoverished nation devalued its currency against the dollar last year and recently put the presidential jet up for sale.

Kunkuyu would not reveal the printing costs, but said portrait sales would cover the fee.

The president's portrait hangs in all public offices, while authorities encourage banks and shops to do it too "as good citizens", said Kunkuyu.

The decision seems to be something of a U-turn for a government that has largely shunned the most ostentations trappings of state.

After coming to power in April last year the president asked to be known as "Mrs Banda" rather than the honorific "Madam President."

Malawi has a peculiar history with such titles.

Dictator Hastings Banda, who ruled for 31 years, styled himself "Ngwazi," which means "conqueror" in the local Chichewa language.

Late president Bingu wa Mutharika took the titles "Ngwazi" and "Professor."

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