SA jets ‘on stand-by’ for African presidents

2012-04-14 16:01

A South African Air Force jet was used to collect Malawi president Bingu wa Mutharika in Lilongwe when he collapsed just more than 10 days ago, and he probably took his last breath on it.

Mutharika either died while being flown in a South African military jet from the capital, Lilongwe, or on arrival at the Air Force Base Waterkloof in Pretoria, a senior government official confirmed to City Press last week.

It has also emerged that the South African National Defence Force has teams on stand-by for health emergencies involving government leaders in the Southern African Development Community region, because it is accepted that South Africa has the best healthcare facilities.

Mutharika’s death was shrouded in secrecy with government officials from South Africa and Malawi either keeping mum or obfuscating the exact time and place of his death.

City Press has learnt that a South African military plane was summoned to collect Mutharika at 2am on Friday, April 6, after he suffered a heart attack late on Thursday afternoon (April 5).

A senior government official involved in the operation said Mutharika either died in the air or on arrival at Waterkloof, from where he was taken to 1 Military Hospital.

He said: “We wouldn’t have picked up a dead body. So by the time we got him, he was still alive.”

Mutharika’s body was flown back to Lilongwe yesterday to lie in state until his burial on April 23 outside Malawi’s second largest city, Blantyre.

According to the official, it is accepted that South Africa should be at hand when emergencies involving senior leaders like Mutharika take place.

This offer is also available to President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.

However, his tempestuous relationship with South Africa makes him opt for healthcare in the Far East instead.

The international relations and cooperation department declined to comment on the matter.

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