Ill Malawi president rushed to SA

2012-04-05 18:43

Lilongwe - Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika was "very critical" on Thursday after a heart attack and was being flown to South Africa for treatment, a minister said, raising fears of a political crisis in the impoverished southern African nation.

Reports were surfacing that Mutharika died.

The Malawi Democrat reported that a top government official, who declined to be named said, “The president is dead.”

A Reuters reporter in Lilongwe witnessed chaotic scenes as the 78-year-old leader's wife, Calista, and senior cabinet ministers left the capital's Kamuzu Central Hospital, where Mutharika was admitted on Thursday after collapsing.

"There was panic," one hospital staffer told Reuters. "We have never been prepared for such an eventuality. He suffered a cardiac arrest and the condition is still unstable."

Vice President Joyce Banda had wished Mutharika a speedy recovery, domestic media reported, although the relationship between the two has been rocky since she was kicked out of the ruling DPP party in 2010 after a row over succession.

However, the constitution makes clear she is first in line to take over, putting her on a collision course with Mutharika's inner circle, including his foreign minister brother Peter, who normally deputises in his sibling's absence.

Police deployed in force across the capital, especially near the hospital, while 15 army officers took up position around Banda's residence, witnesses said.

Given the parlous state of hospital care in Malawi, one of the world's poorest countries, a senior minister said Mutharika was being airlifted to South Africa within the next few hours for emergency treatment.

"The condition is very critical," the minister, who asked for anonymity, said.

Little sympathy

Despite Mutharika's condition, there was little sympathy on the streets of Blantyre, the commercial capital, where many people view him as an autocrat who has mishandled the economy, causing chronic shortages of fuel, food and foreign exchange.

"Perhaps the end of our suffering is also nigh," said Benson Msiska, a taxi driver stuck in a snaking queue for petrol.

Mutharika, a former World Bank economist, came to power in 2004 and presided over a seven-year economic boom - underpinned by foreign aid and some favourable rains - that made it one of one of the world's fastest-growing countries.

However, the growth came to a juddering halt last year after a dispute with Britain led to tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions and a freezing of millions of dollars of aid.

The move by Malawi's biggest donor exacerbated an already acute dollar shortage, hampering imports of fuel, food and medicines, and leading to a depreciation in the currency, the kwacha, against the dollar.

Mutharika's diplomatic isolation and economic plight worsened in July 2011 when the United States shelved a $350m programme to overhaul the dilapidated power grid after police killed 20 people in a crackdown on an unprecedented wave of anti-government protests.

Government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati was unable to confirm the president had been taken to hospital.

"What you are saying is news to me," she said when asked about Mutharika's status.

"I was with him this morning and I can tell you that he is alright."

  • Nicholas - 2012-04-05 18:49

    Private hospital no doubt?

      Tanie - 2012-04-05 18:54

      What do you mean nicholas? do not let your children see what you wrote.

      Jack - 2012-04-05 18:57

      What's wrong with the Malawian hospitals? I wonder why the rest of Africa always comes here to South Africa for medical treatment? I wonder what that common denominator is.

      legomaestro - 2012-04-05 20:19

      @ Jack well the medical situation is terrible at the moment, and ironically the president himself is responsible for such shortfalls, buying jet fuel and trying to open oil companies instead of using it for medical upgrades...

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-04-05 20:50

      Transferring a democratic country to a dictatorship, can be very stressfull!!!!

  • scnzama - 2012-04-05 18:53

    we should be proud that SA is still no1 when it comes to anything positive in Africa(not mentioning HIV if you get what im saying)

      Sanele - 2012-04-05 19:24

      I don't get what you saying, will you clarify for me!

      Oscar - 2012-04-05 19:39

      Sanele, I will clarify it for you. The South African private sector health facilities was created and is still maintained by skilled professional people unlike the rest of Africa where everything is already "transformed" into African mediocracy.

  • Coen - 2012-04-05 19:42

    Is he now a refugee - Oom Kriel, related to your other post regarding Helen Zille's refugee statement?

  • Miriam - 2012-04-05 20:03

    I wish him quick recovery. God be wit him.

      Crracker - 2012-04-05 20:41

      God AND the private hospital be with him. In his own country and in Zimbabwe - the next nearest call of attention one would imagine - even the most benign of ultimate care giver outside our current sphere of existence would have been lost and a failure in the process of saving etc the patient. Thanks to the power of pure capitalism the necessary seems possible.

      Cassim - 2012-04-06 08:49

      Its too late for dat,he is already dead

  • Edmore - 2012-04-05 21:16

    that guy frm sa shld just shut up. africa is 4 africans. the pvt hsptlz u talk abt is exclsive. run by w.... thats y malema wntd 2......

      Oscar - 2012-04-05 22:36

      Africa is for Africans but Africans don't need intellectually challenged chimps like you voicing your retarded opinion on public forums.

      Roland - 2012-04-05 23:25

      Edmore, can you write a word out in full? I cant understand what you're saying and when I put it in Google translate - there is no response - it just puts your mumbo-jumbo out again... I especially had problems with the word "hsptlz"???

      Blessing - 2012-04-06 00:12

      Edmore, go and hang with your mental mulnutrition. Africa is for Africans. An African is either a white,black or pink person who was born in this continent. Stop introducing your null reasing in this platform. You are just a no brainer in knowing Africa.

  • diana.chabuka - 2012-04-05 21:49

    A Bingu woye! Boma woye!!!!! Ndinangobwera kuzakupasani moni kuno ku joni nanga muli bwanji?

  • schikepe - 2012-04-05 22:04

    If other TV stations are saying is true, so is there any reason for MALAWIAN Authorities to send a DEAD BODY to SA? Hey! Malawians looking for respect or What? To my side am so sad, because I would love seeing our President finishing up his second term peacefully as Dr.Bakili Muluzi has been being doing!

      Roland - 2012-04-05 23:29

      You're living in SA aren't you? When last did you try and buy fuel (petrol or diesel) or food in your country. Your people are starving under this man...just like Mugabe, his ego got the better of him...

  • wellington.chirombo - 2012-04-05 22:14

    Take it or leave it, I wish him all the best with God's hand to bring him back to good health. If he goes, that is another side. God himself will take it.We shall meet with him in God's glory!

  • Bryan - 2012-04-06 09:17

    Get wel soon

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