James Nyondo, B.B.A. ’05, lost a May 19 election along with five other candidates for president of his native Malawi to incumbent President Bingu wa Mutharika in what many observers called a flawed process due to a government-controlled media. Mutharika’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party was also winning control of the country’s parliament, while Nyondo was losing a concurrent race for a seat in parliament.
Nyondo, a 41-year-old lawyer and son of a tribal chief, ran on a platform of aid to the poor and anti-corruption. Malawi is a landlocked African country of 14 million that is grappling with the problems of a developing nation: population growth, HIV/AIDS, access to education and economic resources, and political corruption.
Nyondo arrived in San Antonio in 2003 to pursue a degree in business administration. While at UTSA and in travels throughout the United States, Nyondo soaked up knowledge about American culture, government and business in hopes of one day applying his knowledge in his home country.
Nyondo attended Chancellor College in Malawi and earned a law degree from the University of South Africa, in addition to his business degree from UTSA. He and his wife, Lusani “Brenda” Nemataheni, have two children.
Karen Roth, associate director of the UTSA Tomás Rivera Center for Student Success, became close friends with James and Brenda while they were in San Antonio, introducing them to the River Walk and Texas history and culture.
“When I met him, he told me that he was going to be president of his country one day,” Roth recalled. “This was not the typical undergraduate.”
Nyondo’s Christian faith is a driving force in his work and pursuit of education. After returning to Malawi in 2006, he started a ministry called Servants of the Nation, an organization that promotes servant leadership in the country through grassroots efforts.
On the Servants of the Nation Web site, Nyondo writes, “I believe good leadership that truly serves the people is critical to bridging the divisive gap between the haves and the have-nots. The legacy of tomorrow is dependent on the servant-leadership of today. ... For this country to rise, we need safe government that looks out for all the people’s well-being.”
UTSA Professor Richard Gambitta led Nyondo in a political science independent study focused on legislative behavior. Gambitta became a mentor to Nyondo, showing him both the city’s poverty and its wealth, as well as taking him to Austin to visit the Legislature in session and introducing him to state representatives, senators and staff.
“He was very surprised at the way the Legislature actually worked, the informality of it, compared to his own country’s parliament,” Gambitta said. “I told him, I am always surprised by it, too.”
- Lynn Gosnell
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