Media reports within Malawi and all over the world state that Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika is dead. While there is no official government communication at the time of publishing this, the delay in the announcement has created more belief for the worst [*See updates below].
State Radio Malawi Broadcasting Corporation announced on Thursday evening that Mutharika (reported to have been 78) was taken to South Africa following a cardiac arrest on Thursday morning.
Mutharika has been under heavy local and international pressure to improve political and socio-economic situation for Malawi.
While business went on as usual in Malawi's towns, bloggers and other netizens in social media sites have received the news with mixed feelings.
On Malawi Fuel Watch Facebook group, one netizen wrote:
lol the president is gone and now petrol is being found!
Malawians have been queuing up for hours for fuel since 2010.
While another wrote:
Peter Mutharika [President's brother], let Joyce [Vice President] take over if status quo remains, we need fuel now…
Malawian journalist and blogger Rebekka Chimjeka reported that Bingu’s remains were to return to Malawi soon. She said that Malawi expects Vice President Joyce Banda to address members of the press. She has been updating her blog with news related to Mutharika's death.
Another journalist Kondwani Munthali refuted reports that Mutharika was admitted at Milpark Hospital in South Africa:
Malawi is at crossroads. President Bingu wa Mutharika was never admitted at Milpark Hospital as suggested by Government as it has been found.
All indications, medical, DPP, family and others sources indicate the President sadly passed away yesterday and he is at a funeral home in South Africa.
Medical records from Milpark Hospital indicate 16 people were at the Intensive Care Unit this morning at the Hospital and none of the President.
He prayed for Malawi hoping that the constitution will prevail:
There are reports of some people in the ruling party trying to force Parliament to convene and change the constitution not to allow the Vice President to assume office.
It is the prayer of this blog, that constitutional order will prevail and that the Legacy, Honour and Dignity of the President will be honoured by allowing peace and constitutional order to prevail.
*Update 1: Malawi's Vice-President Joyce Banda has confirmed that President Bingu wa Mutharika has died and declared 10 days of mourning. Under the constitution, Vice-President Joyce Banda takes over. However, government spokesperson says that she cannot succeed Mutharika because she is not a member of the ruling party. She was expelled from the ruling party in 2010 after a dispute with Mutharika's attempt to position his brother as his successor.
Malawi Voices reported that army chiefs have agreed to follow the constitution by supporting Joyce Banda:
The Malawi Defence Played a crucial role, General Odillo chaired a meeting with military chiefs and unanimously agreed follow the constitution. The General Informed Joyce banda, Peter Mutharika and Goodall Gondwe that the army will uphold the constitution anything other than that will not be entertained. Team of soldiers was on stand-by at Kamuzu Barracks and a few others went to guard the Veep's residence. This plus US govt direct pressure on Peter Mutharika deflated “Peter and Goodall's plans”
A group of Cabinet ministers appeared at a news conference on Friday night to declare that Vice-President Joyce Banda cannot succeed President Bingu wa Mutharika.
This is the first time Malawi will bury a sitting president.
*Update 2: Following death of President Bingu wa Mutharika last Thursday, Malawi sworn in Vice President Joyce Banda as its president at the Parliament in Lilongwe on Saturday 7 April, 2012. She becomes the 4th but first Malawi's female president and will serve for the remainder of Mutharika's term to May 2014.
The swearing in ceremony on Saturday puts to rest the apparent power struggle by Mutharika's Democratic Progress Party which kicked Banda out of the ruling party in 2010.
Malawians across the world have rejoiced over the smooth transition amidst fears that Peter Mutharika was to be unconstitutionally endorsed as president.