The resignation of Atupele Muluzi from the Malawi Cabinet can either mark the beginning of an end for the Peopleâ€™s Party (PP) administration or that voters will be the biggest winners, analysts say.
Atupele, who was Economic Planning and Development Minister and was recently elected United Democratic Front (UDF) national chairpersonâ€”effectively making him the partyâ€™s presidential candidate in 2014, cited uncomplimentary public comments against him by some members of PP, including Malawi Vice-President Khumbo Kachali, in Mangochi on Saturday.
Joseph Chunga, a political science lecturer at the University of Malawiâ€™s Chancellor College in Zomba, argued Atupeleâ€™s resignation has weakened the governing PP and strengthened democracy ahead of the 2014 general elections when President Joyce Banda will seek a fresh mandate to rule.
Chunga argued voters are the biggest winners as Atupeleâ€™s resignation gives Malawians more alternatives for the 2014 elections.
Said the political analyst: â€œThis is a minus, especially considering that some MPs have just announced their resignation from PP. It is a concern aboutÂ the inclusiveness of government…Obviously, his move [will] change the current political landscape because in 2014, people need to have alternatives and without Atupele, people were running out of options.
â€œIt would also be naÃ¯ve to rule Atupele out [in the 2014 race]. The alternatives that are there do not have an edge over him. The only thing is that he has to pick himself up from where he stopped before he went into government. It is, however, a positive development for him as an individual and UDF.â€
Chunga observed that Atupeleâ€™s resignation was expected as it was unrealistic for him to continue heralding his agenda for change campaign as well as leading UDF while working in a PP government.
He said even the weekend outbursts against him from the PP top brass were made out of a clear knowledge that he was going out of Cabinet.
â€œBut we need these other parties. It was worrying and dangerous to have UDF involved in such an informal alliance. We all saw how the Alliance for Democracy [Aford] was affected by such alliances,â€ said Chunga.
But Public Affairs Committee (PAC) publicity secretary the Reverend Maurice Munthali said the move does not change anything in terms of leadership alternatives.
â€˜Beginning of end of PPâ€™
Instead, Munthali argued, the departure, especially coming hot on the heels of the outbursts at the Mangochi rallies, should be regarded as the â€œbeginning of the end of PPâ€.
Argued Munthali: â€œCertainly, no government would castigate somebody who would want to help government. This government has not been elected and they should have been very careful to embrace the people who are working with them.â€
Munthali, who also said he was not surprised by the resignation, said Atupeleâ€™s departure from government itself does not mean anything to the country.
â€œIt has not changed anything and as we [PAC] have said before…, it is only after our leadership is transformed or the leaders change their mindset that this country would be changed. To me, it is like we have just come out of Egypt and we are still in the wilderness, not yet in Canaan,â€ said the cleric.
Atupele was roped into Joyce Bandaâ€™s first-ever Cabinet appointed in April when she ascended to power in line with constitutional order after the death of president Bingu wa Mutharika. He was among several MPs from different parties in what Banda and analysts described as an inclusive government to revive the economy.
Speaking on Saturday during a rally in Mangochi where the President distributed relief food items to the needy, Kachali ordered Mangochi South MP Yusuf Matumula and PP Eastern Province governor Samson Msosa to â€œinvadeâ€ Machinga, the home and stronghold of Atupele and UDF.
In his address monitored on MBC Radio, Kachali accused some unnamed politicians of benefiting from the President, but later turning against her administration.
And the same Saturday, an online publication, Nyasatimes, reported that Matumula also attacked former president Bakili Muluzi, Atupeleâ€™s father, saying during his rule, he failed to end poverty and to develop the country, among other things.
In a statement announcing his resignation, Atupele, who made headlines earlier this year when he launched his â€˜Agenda for Changeâ€™, said whereas an inclusive Cabinet entails working in collective unison to secure economic recovery and harmonise the countryâ€™s divisive politics, he was â€œappalled and mortified by the public comments recently uttered against me by some members of the government in a manner that lacked the courtesy, mutual respect and dignity that is expected between colleagues who strive together in pursuit of a common cause-to serve the people of Malawi selflessly and to the best of oneâ€™s abilities.â€
In a State House statement released last evening, the President accepted Muluziâ€™s resignation.
Meanwhile, UDF national publicity secretary Ken Ndanga said Atupele has communicated his decision to leave Cabinet to the National Executive Committee (NEC).
But Ndanga denied that the party has influenced Muluzi to leave the Cabinet.