Joyce Banda assumes control in Malawi

2012-04-07 13:20

Lilongwe - Malawian Vice-President Joyce Banda took over the running of the country on Saturday after the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika, and fears of a succession struggle receded as state institutions backed the constitutional handover.

The government only officially confirmed 78-year-old Mutharika's death earlier on Saturday, two days after he had died following a heart attack.

His body had been flown to a military hospital in South Africa.

The delay in the announcement had raised worries about a political crisis because Banda had been expelled from Mutharika's ruling DPP party in 2010 after an argument about the succession, though she retained her state position.

Official mourning

Banda, 61, who will be southern Africa's first female head of state, appeared at a news conference in the capital Lilongwe to declare 10 days of official mourning for Mutharika, who had ruled for eight years. She ordered national flags to be flown at half-mast and the state broadcaster to play sombre music.

"I call upon all Malawians to remain calm and to keep the peace during this time of bereavement," Banda said, flanked by members of the cabinet, the attorney general and the heads of the army and the police.

Asked by a reporter whether she was assuming the presidency, Banda, a women's rights activist, replied: "As you can see, the constitution prevails".

The constitution stipulates that the vice-president takes over if the president dies, but Mutharika appeared to have been grooming his brother Peter, the foreign minister, as his de facto successor.

Banda is expected to run the country until scheduled elections take place in 2014.

The presidency and cabinet issued a statement assuring citizens and the international community "that the constitution of the Republic of Malawi will be strictly adhered to in managing the transition".

Both Britain and the United States, which had been major donors to Malawi until they froze millions of dollars in aid over rows with Mutharika over his policies and actions, urged a smooth transition respecting the constitution.

"We trust that the vice president (Banda) who is next in line will be sworn in shortly," the US state department said.

British foreign minister William Hague said in a statement on Saturday: "I urge all sides to remain calm and (hope) that a peaceful handover takes place as provided for under Malawi's constitution."

Streets calm

The streets of the capital Lilongwe and the main commercial city Blantyre were calm on Saturday, though police guarded strategic locations.

There appeared to be little public sorrow at Mutharika's death. Many of Malawi's 13m people had viewed him as an autocrat personally responsible for an economic crisis that stemmed ultimately from a diplomatic row with former colonial power Britain a year ago.

After Britain and others froze aid worth some 40% of government spending, fuel supplies dried up and food prices soared, leading to popular unrest and attacks on Mutharika's economic policies by bodies as diverse as the Catholic Church and the International Monetary Fund.

"It's sad that he is leaving behind so many unsolved problems, which will be difficult to tackle even by the vice president or whoever takes charge," said Stella Mataka, a waiter at a lodge near Blantyre's Chileka International airport.

As reports of the death of the self-styled "Economist in chief" swept the capital, there were bursts of drunken jubilation among those who accused Mutharika of turning back the clock on 18 years of democracy in the "Warm Heart of Africa".

Medical sources said Mutharika's body was flown to South Africa because Malawi's energy crisis was so severe the Lilongwe state hospital would have been unable to conduct a proper autopsy or even keep his body refrigerated.

"We as government will be in consultation with the bereaved family, advise the date when our president's body will arrive from South Africa and other funeral arrangements," Banda said.

"I also want to ask all Malawians to join me in wishing that the soul of our president rests in peace," she added.

  • batsterp - 2012-04-07 14:00

    According to constitution of mw,she has to take the position.

  • Calvin - 2012-04-07 14:03

    I hope aid suspension by the US and Britain will be lifted now that Mutharika is gone.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-04-07 14:41

      @Fidel, Western aid , mainly emergency aid, to Africa , saves MILLIONS of African lives EVERY SINGLE YEAR.!! You have no concience whatsoever to let Africans starve, as long as you can spew out your Anti western feelings It is pretty sickening !!!

      Ina - 2012-04-07 14:43

      @ fidel, and so says a well fed fat cat of the S.A. persuasion, never mind if you die of hunger, malnutrition and exposure! My goodness, if only people can get their priorities straight!

      Fidel - 2012-04-07 14:55

      The conscience masturbation that is Western aid has been utterly corrosive on African states, all too often lining the pockets of a corrupt ruling class and reducing the populations to a state of dependency. Africa has become the dumping ground of highly subsidised western agricultural products, meaning that local producers have no chance at all.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-04-07 15:25

      Fidel, That is absolute garbage what you say. You talk the same crap, almost word for word, in comments made in the sixties and seventies, in newspapers and magazines. One thing for sure, Africans who depend on foreign aid will despise you. You are an enemy of Africa !!!! But if it gives you some fun on the internet, and some enjoy being entertained by you, go for it !!!

      Fidel - 2012-04-07 15:31

      In other words, you have no counter-argument!

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-04-07 17:21

      No, in other words, you talk such crap, that only in SA , are you able to peddle such BS, In Europe, and even in countries like China, they will laugh their heads of with your silly comments , wrapped in fancy words !!!

      Kevin - 2012-04-07 18:53

      Calvin, it is likely as it was the expulsion of the British High Commissioner to Malawi that lead to the suspension of aid. Fidel has a point, aid to Africa is responsible for funding corruption and induced a situation wher the governments do nothing but put out begging bowl. Malawi is however a sad case as it has no exploitable mineral resources, limited arable land, a poor land ownership system and is overpopulated although the population is too small to sustain manufacturing. It is why in 1952/3 Britain forced the then Nyasaland onto the Federation between Northern and Southern Rhodesia.

      Irene - 2012-04-07 19:16

      Fidel ~ Are you trying to wipe out the entire population of the African continent? If left to their own means, they'd all starve to death. The 'evil' West doesn't need to be supplying Africa with drugs, and food and, and, and. Quite frankly, I think it would be a good idea for all aid to Africa to stop. So yes, let Africans do it for themselves and watch the continent 'empty' itself.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-04-07 19:58

      No Irene, That's not the answer. One must not upset oneself with people like Fidel. Her thoughts are soo outdated, that very few actually would take her serious. The fact is that people like Fidel, would in NO country in the world , where they would hold fair elections, get much support. More than likely not more than 5 % of the voters. Here in SA , and in most of Africa, the parties that share her extreme thoughts, have vanished from the political landscape. But like the heroes she support; Mugabe, gaddafi, assad, Ahmadinejad, Chavez, kim Jong Un, etc, she won't give up, and uses long stories full of big words to intimidate us. But here on this site she has found half a dozen ,supporters, who hang onto every word she utters, so she will continue entertaining those !!!! The ironi is that she abuses her freedom, which she does not grant others !!!!!!!

      Oscar - 2012-04-08 02:03

      @Irene, and what if they empty themselves into South Africa?

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-04-08 10:10

      ""The conscience masturbation that is Western aid has been utterly corrosive on African states"" Fidel The words, concience, masturbation, corrosive, are well known!! But to put these in ONE sentence, that is INSANE !!! Are you trying to be the clown on this site ??

      Fidel - 2012-04-08 11:33

      Irene, Africans lived and survived on this continent before starvation and diseases brought your great grand parents to these shores for relief. Back to your log termite! @Anthony When I write a comment lasting two and a half lines it is important to have good letters and good words. With good words you can make strong sentence. I have good words. I am sure of this.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-04-08 12:10

      Yes, but ,good, words, can also mean absolute rubbish !!!

      Fidel - 2012-04-08 13:18

      At the risk of seeming churlish, I won't get a T-shirt printed until my intellect impresses someone of a higher calibre.

      AnthonyfromAfrica - 2012-04-08 13:42

      Well , are you not glad you live in SA, where you can wear ANY tshirt you like. You would be living in Zimbabwe, Syria, Iran, China, or any country where your heroes terrorize their population, and you would be wearing the wrong tshirt, you could easily end up dead !!!!

      Fidel - 2012-04-08 14:00

      Naturally, my vociferous opposition to western Imperialism does not necessarily entail support for those countries. But aren't we lucky that we live in this binary world of 1s and 0s, black or white, where shadings of grey aren't permissible.

  • Hermann - 2012-04-07 14:14

    Clever girl that woman is. Watch a smooth transition take place.

  • philliptembo.tembo - 2012-04-07 14:20

    Is Malawi going to be the same as before?

  • lytteot7 - 2012-04-07 15:02

    Let's hope a coup doesn't happen.

  • acsteyn - 2012-04-07 16:28

    The Bandas? Are they not the Kennedy's of Malawai?

      Kevin - 2012-04-07 18:55

      No they are the Smiths or Joneses of Britain. It is a very common surname.

  • manyanyaphiri - 2012-04-07 17:30

    Breath of feminine fresh air, this Joyce Banda head of state for bereaved Malawi!

  • HugoMabasa - 2012-04-07 18:25

    '. . .the state broadcaster to play sombre music' Maam pres, you will find yourself with a balooning population after the mourning period.

  • komorison - 2012-04-08 11:24

    The troll has departed.

  • esta.haasbroek - 2012-04-10 16:23

    I was in Malawi last week and I saw the poor side of it. We need to pray for this country and its people. The conditions are very bad.

  • pages:
  • 1