Malawi President Reported Dead

After hours of speculation and conflictng reports, doctors who treated the leader confirm his death.

Posted: 04/06/2012 11:20 AM EDT

Doctors who treated Malawi’s President Bingu wa Mutharika, 78, have confirmed he died on Thursday night, April 5, after suffering a heart attack, despite government reports that he is currently alive and undergoing treatment in a South African hospital, the Associated Press reports.


The doctors' confirmation was not the first report of Mutharika's death. Rumors have swirled for nearly 24 hours that the former leader did not survive attempts to resuscitate him after his heart stopped. 


“The president died yesterday, and his body has been flown to South Africa for embalming and for the process to be dignified, the official announcement will come later on,” a government official told AFP, speaking on condition of anonymity. “He died...after two hours of resuscitation."


But despite reports of his death and their continual spread, the government insists the leader is alive. News that Mutharika was alive and in South Africa continued to emerge as late as early Friday evening, Malawi time.


However, if the government is purposely keeping Malawians in the dark about the situation, there’s good reason.


If Mutharika is dead, the country’s constitution says the vice president will step into his position. But Vice President Joyce Banda was expelled from the ruling party in 2010 after a squabble with Mutharika.


According to the BBC, upon learning of Mutharika’s death, the country’s ministers held all-night meetings to determine the next steps. For some, the answer is clear, despite Banda’s dismissal.


"I am calling for a constitutional order, for continued peace and order. The laws of Malawi are very clear that the vice president takes over when the president can no longer govern,” former President and Mutharika’s rival Bakili Muluzi told journalists, according to the BBC.


Mutharika first came to power in 2004 and was re-elected 2009. His leadership has increasingly come under fire for his attempts to control the media and to prevent public criticism of the government.


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(Photo: Noor Khamis/Reuters)

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