Last updateJeu, 29 Jan 2015 3pm

President Banda's trusted political ally, senior minister quits

Blantyre, Malawi - Muhammad Sidik Mia, Malawi Transport Minister and a trusted political ally of Malawi President Joyce Banda, has resigned from the cabinet and quit his ruling People's Party (PP) position. 'I am a free man, I have reflected on my political future and consulted my family and I have today decided to resign from both the government and the ruling party,' he told PANA in an interview Friday.

However, Presidential Communications Advisor Elias Wakuda Kamanga has downplayed Mia's resignation, saying it will not dent the party.

'Her Excellency, the President Dr. Joyce Banda welcomes news that Minister of Transport and Public Works and People's Party Vice President (Southern Region) Hon. Muhammad Sidik Mia, has resigned from PP,' he said.

Kamanga said the party was not shaken and that the President respects Malawians' freedom of political choice.

'Her Excellency the President is aware that every citizen in Malawi has a democratic right to choose to belong to any political party or association and, equally, to leave any political party or association,' he said.

But analysts say this was a political 'body blow' on President Banda, coming as it does less than five months to crucial elections when Malawi's first female president faces her first test at the polls.

Banda, the then vice president, rose to power following the sudden death of President Bingu wa Mutharika in April 2012.

'Mia's resignation's impact is bound to be significant since he was not only the vice president of the party but also one of its main financiers,' said University of Malawi Associate Law Professor Edge Kanyongolo.

He said the party must not downplay Mia's resignation. He was, however, quick to state that it was too early to extrapolate that this reflects badly on President Banda's people management skills.

'Until one gets the real reasons why these people are resigning one wouldn't jump to conclusions,' he said.

Mia's resignation comes fast on the heels of the resignation of yet another PP Vice President (Central Region) Cassim Chilumpha.

Unconfirmed reports say Mia is heading for the main opposition Malawi Congress Party (MCP) where he is tipped to be running mate to the oldest party in the land's presidential hopeful, the Rev. Dr. Lazarus Chakwera.

In August last year, MCP elected the cleric-turned-politician as its president and presidential candidate for the 20 May elections. The coming in of the former Assemblies of God president has re-energised the MCP's central region stronghold.

But Chakwera needs a strong running mate from the populous southern region to make a significant showing at the national polls. Mia, a political heavyweight from the Lower Shire Valley, just might be the man.

But Mia, an astute businessman and cattle rancher, was coy when asked whether he was heading to the MCP.

'Nobody has offered me the position of running mate yet,' he said. 'I'll rest and reflect my political future now and will make my position known.'

He nonetheless said he was still in active politics and would fight to retain his Chikhwawa Nkombezi parliamentary seat. He would not be drawn to say whether he would contest as an independent or not.

Pana 25/01/2014