Mia’s resignation is a blow to PP. But his next political step will put to test what other parties have been speaking about politicians like him.
On Friday morning two weeks ago, Sidik Mia, in his capacity as Transport Minister, presided over the graduation ceremony of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) at the College of Medicine in Blantyre.
During the ceremony, Mia—just as he did to Bakili Muluzi when he was in United Democratic Front (UDF) and to Bingu wa Mutharika while in Democratic Progressive Party (DPP)—spoke highly of his employer, President Joyce Banda
Not only did he hail the Economic Recovery Plan (ERP) as being on track. Mia also touted progress on the construction of the railway, purchasing of new rail coaches and the feasibility programmes currently going on at Nsanje Port which is being pursued by the private sector.
As he spoke, those that listened to him could hardly doubt his loyalty to President Banda. Little did they know that in the afternoon of the same day, Mia would be holding a press briefing that would ‘shock’ the same employer he was speaking highly of a few hours before.
Yet it happened.
On the afternoon of the same Friday, Mia announced his resignation as vice-president of People’s Party (PP) and also as Minister of Transport.
Somehow, PP spokesperson Ken Msonda was right to say the party received the news with ‘shock’, describing Mia’s resignation as “a big blow and a crisis”.
But for those that understand politicians like Mia—powerful, influential but always switching parties—they would hardly express ‘shock’ with such a resignation. They would understand it as a rolling stone that is only doing what it knows best—rolling.
Within a decade, Mia has worn yellow as UDF MP in 2004; then went blue as DPP; and resigned after turning orange as PP vice-president for the Southern Region.
He was one of the politicians in April 2012 who, even before the remains of Bingu wa Mutharika had been interred, quickly ditched DPP and picked a Cabinet portfolio in PP—something that a touched former president Bakili Muluzi described as ‘unMalawian’.
Yet despite that, in Mia, PP has lost a key figure in the party and government, as put by Msonda.
“How the party wished Mia could stay in the party. We have to go back to the drawing board and find out what went wrong because it is not easy to lose a vice-president of the party just like that,” Msonda told Weekend Nation.
Being an influential figure mostly in Chikhwawa, a financially independent politician who, during the convention, floored veteran Brown Mpinganjira with 1 700 votes of confidence to 276, his departure, argues political analyst Blessings Chinsinga, could mean that ‘PP is losing ground in the Shire Valley’.
“Other PP members are likely to follow Mia wherever he would be going,” said Chinsinga.
Mia is yet to divulge details of his resignation. He only said he has resigned after “spiritual and personal reflection”.
But as Chinsinga speculated that Mia’s resignation could be ‘electoral-driven’, President Banda’s speech at a political rally in Lilongwe last Sunday helped unravel the heart of the beast.
Without specifically mentioning anyone, Banda said: “There can only be one vice-president and one president. If there are some people who came into the party just for that, then they are free to leave”.
Given the current season where presidential candidates are searching for running mates; frustrations, defections and political resignations, are common, as history shows.
Was Mia’s resignation, then, a product of intra-party frustrations?
One political truth with Mia is that his political ways barely differ with, among others, the Ken Lipengas, the Henry Phoyas, the Binton Kutsairas, the Gwanda Chakuambas and the John Bandes—recycled politicians who trade their virtues for power, always driven by political winds.
As argued by researcher John Young in an article Politics without Positions: Party Loyalty and Voting Behaviour in Malawi, these [recycled politicians] are politicians who troop to parties not as a way to join ideologically like-minded colleagues, but as a vehicle to be harnessed or abandoned depending on its usefulness towards their short-term political goals.
Judging from the political behaviour of such politicians, the least Malawians should expect is for Mia to live by the reasons he gave for the resignation. He will, arguably, make a move.
In fact, as a rational and influential political figure who has served in various senior Cabinet portfolios and rose to become a vice-president of a ruling party, it is almost without expression that wherever he goes, if he will, he will not settle for anything less. It will have to be a senior position.
However, his next political step will be keenly watched mostly because it will put to test the position of the recipient on recycled politicians.
If he returns to UDF, questions will emerge regarding what the party president Atupele Muluzi has been advancing on recycled politicians.
Speaking at last week’s tour in Ntcheu and Dedza, the young Muluzi, who is advancing an Agenda for Change, warned that the UDF will not open doors to recycled politicians, arguing such politicians are contributing to the untold misery rocking the country.
“The economic instability the country is experiencing is created by selfish politicians who change parties at will to advance their personal gains. And I want to warn such politicians that they would have no space in the next UDF administration,” he said.
So if Mia knocks on their door, will they accept him? Their response will put to test what the party has been advancing.
But what if Mia turns to MCP?
MCP leader Lazarus Chakwera has always underlined that his whole entry into politics is based on cleaning up the mess which recycled politicians have created.
Thus, if it happens that MCP takes Mia on board, the move will likely raise questions on his position on recycled politicians and his quest for changing the face of Malawi’s politics.
Or, perhaps, Mia will return to DPP.
After apologising to President Banda for the ‘sins’ he committed against her while in DPP, Mia has been telling Malawians “not to be fooled because DPP cannot win the elections”.
But because in Malawi, as Young argues, politics is more of a short-term electoral security project aimed at winning and maintaining office, Mia, given his political influence, could be accepted in any of these political parties.
This is why although PP has lost a great deal in Mia; his next step would also cost the image of whichever party welcomes him.