While insisting that Malawiâ€™s President Bingu wa Mutharika is still alive when the entire world knows he is dead, Minister of Information Patricia Kaliati last night said Vice-President Joyce Banda cannot ascend to the presidency because she has formed her own opposition party.
Speaking at a media briefing held in Lilongwe, Kaliati condemned Bandaâ€™s earlier statement that the Constitution be respected, saying there is no vacancy in government.
“If the Veep is concerned with the Presidentâ€™s condition, why doesnâ€™t she go to the hospital? She should not speak on the Constitution because she is not supposed to,” she said.
Kaliati also refuted rumours that Parliament will be meeting next week.
Kaliati, who was flanked by some ruling DPP bigwigs such as Jean Kalilani, Kondwani Nakhumwa, Henry Mussa, Symon Vuwa Kaunda and Nicholas Dausi, also condemned former president Bakili Muluziâ€™s statement regarding the succession.
She further said that information regarding the condition of the President will be made today (Saturday morning).
Meanwhile, the DPP on Friday elected Foreign Affairs Minister Peter Mutharika to acting president of the party.
The Foreign Affairs Minister was nominated by Ken Zikhale Ngâ€™oma, director of campaign for the party, and supported by Goodall Gondwe, Yunus Mussa, Vuwa Kaunda and Kaliati.
In another development, Weekend Nation learnt on Friday that while a majority of ministers want Joyce Banda to take over, five of them were so bitter that they threatened to stop her through an injunction.
But a check at the Lilongwe and Blantyre High Court registries later in the day showed that no application for an injunction had been filed with the court.
Some of the ministers who attended controversial Cabinet meetings at Energy Minister Goodall Gondweâ€™s house on Thursday and the New State House on Friday indicated the Vice President has about 75 percent support.
Some lawyers have questioned the legitimacy of the meetings, citing Section 92(3)(b) of the Constitution which requires the Vice-President to preside over such meetings when the President is not there temporarily.
An official at the Vice-Presidentâ€™s residence also indicated that, following the vote in the Cabinet, diplomats, government officials and security officers started calling on the Vice-President.
“This is the reason why you have all diplomats gathered at her house for a briefing. This is why the military command led by Brigadier General John Msonthi are here,” the official said.
The Vice-President herself assured the nation that she is keeping in touch with South African officials on the progress of the President health condition.
Banda also said her sincere hope is that Malawians will adhere to the Constitution of Malawi.
The Constitution is clear that Vice-President Joyce Banda should take over as Head of State immediately the President is certified dead or incapacitated, although a smooth transition has not been assured since she was booted out of Mutharikaâ€™s ruling DPP party in 2010 after an argument about succession.
Mutharika appeared to have been grooming his brother Peter, the Foreign Affairs Minister, as his de facto successor.
The delay by Cabinet to make a decision has been viewed by many in the diplomatic community as a tactic to frustrate the transfer of power.
The US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Johnie Carson urged authorities to transfer power quickly.
“Malawiâ€™s Constitution lays out a clear path for succession and we expect it to be observed. We are concerned about the delay in the transfer of power,” Carson said in a statement from US State Department.
“We trust that the Vice-President who is next in line will be sworn in shortly,” the statement added.
At the conference, Banda, a womenâ€™s rights activist, said that the Constitution is clear on what happens in the event that the President dies or is incapacitated.
But she refused to say whether she had become southern Africaâ€™s first female Head of State and to announce whether the President had passed on.
A leading political commentator Dr Boniface Dulani said that Bandaâ€™s ascendancy to power raises a number of interesting constitutional and practical questions once more.
“What agenda is she going to pursue, the DPPâ€™s or that of her Peopleâ€™s Party (PP), even if Malawians have not had a chance to endorse it in an election? How is her relationship with Parliament going to be like? Are the DPP legislators and the leadership that emerges, going to try to frustrate her agenda the same way the late Mutharika was between 2005 and 2009,” Dr Dulani said.
The 78-year-old Mutharika was rushed to hospital in Lilongwe on Thursday after collapsing, and was dead on arrival, the medical and government sources said.
Meanwhile the President was flown to South Africaâ€™s Milpark Hospital already dead, a doctor at the hospital disclosed yesterday.
“The main reason he was flown to Milpark is for us to find out the cause of the death and as I am talking to you the body is in the mortuary and post-mortem will be conducted later this afternoon,” disclosed the doctor who sought anonymity.
She further said that they received information from the doctor who treated Mutharika at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Malawi that he died on Thursday 5th April at the Intensive Care Unit where he was admitted after suffering a cardiac arrest.
Life of BINGU
â€”1934: Born Ryson Webster Thom in Thyolo. Adopts current name in 1960s
â€”1964: Goes abroad
â€”Trains as economist, works for international bodies, including World Bank
â€”2004: Elected President as candidate of UDF
â€”2005: Leaves UDF to form DPP
â€”2009: Re-elected for a second term
â€”2011: Faced growing calls for him to resign; UK cuts direct aid after Mutharika expels its envoy