By Lynn Gosnell
Special Projects Writer
(May 14, 2009)--James Nyondo '05 is one of six candidates remaining on the May 19 ballot that will elect a new president and members of parliament in the African country of Malawi. Many at UTSA are not surprised at his achievement.
To many residents of the United States, Malawi is best known as the setting of pop singer Madonna's adoption sagas. Beyond the entertainment headlines lies a landlocked 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.
To Nyondo, 41-year-old son of a tribal chief, Malawi is a deeply troubled homeland in desperate need of better leadership. He is running for president of Malawi, a multiparty democracy that achieved its independence from Great Britain in 1964.
The international student arrived in San Antonio in 2003 to pursue a degree in business administration. While at UTSA and on visits throughout his travels in 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 here, introducing them to such San Antonio treasures as H-E-B and the River Walk.
"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 SON website, 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 peoples' 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."
With just a week to go before the elections, Nyondo is reporting a campaign of intimidation that includes harassment of supporters and the deportation of Micah Harris, a friend and campaign volunteer. The current president, Bingu wa Mutharika, has spoken out against him and other candidates. According to news reports, the European Union is sending more than 80 observers to cover the election.
James Nyondo for President
San Antonio Express-News article on Nyondo (March 26, 2008)
CIA World Fact Book: Malawi