I do not understand the consternation in some circles in reaction Sidik Mia’s public declaration that he intends to return to front line politics, or his declaration that he finds Chakwera’s leadership attractive, or his declaration that he will announce his political party of choice soon, or his declaration that he aspires to be on a presidential ticket as a running mate.
Some have argued that his political aspirations are not welcome because he is a Muslim, but if that is your concern, then you live in the wrong country. Our nation is not a Christocracy, its constitution is not a religious document, and there is no government position that the law says any Malawian can’t hold on religious grounds. To be sure, having lived in a Middle Eastern Muslim country before, I have considered the philosophy of Muhammed at length and have firmly rejected its view of God, the human condition, and the universe as fundamentally flawed, because if you are wrong about Jesus, then whatever else you are right about ultimately doesn’t matter.
However, I will defend to the death Sidik Mia’s God-given freedom to practice his religion according to the dictates of his conscience, because the constitution that protects it also protects it for me and millions of other Christians. In short, Mia is entitled to his wrong religious opinion, and that opinion does not disqualify him from the government positions he aspires to. As for his alleged promise to the Muslim community that if elected, he’d help them build more mosques, while I find such an overtly religious agenda disquieting, my disapproval of it is precisely why we have elections, not a cause for maligning the man for being clear about his intentions.
Some have argued that his political aspirations are not welcome because he is a recycled politician. This populist antagonism against so-called recycled politicians was popularised by Dr. Chakwera in the last election, naturally buoyed by his popularity as a new entrant in Malawi’s political arena. And the electorate by and large bought into the sentiment, as reflected by the fact that 75% of parliamentarians seeking reelection ended up losing their seats.
However, at the risk of being a dissenting voice, I must say that this sentiment is unfortunate and will be detrimental to our nation’s legislative aspirations in the long run. We need seasoned and career politicians in our Parliament and governance institutions to safeguard the long term legislative agendas of constituents.
Calling Mia and every politician who aspires to continue being a public servant “recycled” is myopic. We can’t make much progress if the entire legislature has to start from scratch every five years, or if our naive idea of a good government is one led entirely by novices who have never been politicians before. It would be fine to reject a candidate for having a track record of failed leadership, but that is quite different from the asinine claim that a candidate is not fit to lead simply because he has been in politics for too long.
Mia has ably served his country at the helm of three government ministries under two presidents; when his boss, the late President Bingu wa Mutharika, died suddenly in office in 2012, prompting ranking members of the ruling party, including our current president, to start plotting an illegal usurpation of power to prevent the then Vice President Joyce Banda from taking over as President. Mia helped his country make a smooth and legal transfer of power when he courageously broke rank and led a delegation of Ministers to support Joyce Banda in taking the reigns.
Not to say anything of the fact that he has built a successful business empire and is thus not in politics for the money, has retained his seat in Parliament for three consecutive terms, and is only 52 years old. Dismissing him by calling him a recycled politician is an exercise in intellectual laziness.
Some have argued that his political aspirations are not welcome because he is rumored to be eyeing and lobbying to become a running mate to Lazarous Chakwera on the ticket of the Malawi Congress Party, a party whose loyalists frown upon people coming from other parties to assume prominent positions with no proven loyalty to the party and its principles. But this panic within the MCP and the media frenzy around it is either premature or exaggerated, or both.
The MCP is a democratic institution, and if Mia contests for a position within the party, all the party needs to do is not vote for him if it deems him unsuitable. Besides, a party that wants to govern the whole country cannot legitimately close its doors to any Malawians wanting to join it simply because those Malawians previously belonged to other parties. Paranoia is not a political strategy.
I have even heard party zealots say the likes of Mia are not welcome to join the party because the likes of Mia feel entitled to any positions of prominence in any party they choose, but that sentiment is itself an expression of entitlement, the kind that says the only ones entitled to hold positions in the party are the few who have kept the party since (or should I say in?) the dark ages. The kind of leadership Malawi needs is not that which is given as a reward for maintaining the status quo, but for having a proven capacity to change it.
Members of the MCP who fancy themselves to be the party faithful and who look their noses down new faces looking to join the party are working around the clock as self-appointed protectors of the party, not knowing that 75% of us Malawians were either very young or not around when the party was last in power, and thus we care less about who has kept the party since then and more about who can carry the party into the future we want.
The greatest weakness of the MCP is that it is obsessed with the past, a party of nostalgia. But the majority of Malawians are looking for a promising future, and if all you can promise is that you will take Malawi back to the so-called glory days of President Kamuzu Banda who has been dead for as long as most Malawians have been alive, then you are walking in the wrong direction and need fresh ideas.
Protecting MCP from new faces is thus protecting it from progress and growth, and things that are not growing in new ways are dying. Besides, the decision of whom to have as Chakwera’s running mate is Chakwera’s alone, and if you trust him to be your presidential candidate, you must trust him to choose his side kick.
Lastly, we must welcome in our politics the emergence of people like Mia, not because he is the kind of leader Malawi needs, which is debatable, but because he is clear about where he stands. He has spoken of his political aspirations, his Mosque-building agenda, and his admiration for Chakwera publicly. He has not hidden his intentions. This allows the electorate to make an informed decision, to reject his offer of leadership or accept it, a clear choice that is good for democracy and governance. What is damaging is the nefarious practice in all the parties of members who secretly aspire to be at the helm of those parties, but instead of saying so publicly, they pay lip service to those currently leading those parties while clandestinely working in the shadows to plot their downfall.
Malawi needs more men and women you can listen to in private and public and know exactly where they stand, because those are not only the ones you can freely work with without looking over your shoulder, but they are also the ones you can freely disagree with without them looking over their shoulders. By exercising their freedom openly, the Mias of this country safeguard our freedom as well.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :