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Lilongwe - An official Malawian commission of inquiry has confirmed that Malawian president Bingu wa Mutharika was pronounced dead by doctors at a Lilongwe hospital on April 5 last year, well before he was flown to South Africa, supposedly for further treatment.
This was stated on Wednesday by retired Supreme Court of Appeal judge Elton Singini – who chaired the commission of inquiry – when he presented the commission’s findings to President Joyce Banda in the capital, Lilongwe.
Mutharika’s political cronies tried to pretend he was still alive so they could plot to subvert the constitution by preventing Banda – then vice-president – from succeeding him, journalists reported at the time.
It is not yet known if Justice Singini’s commission report corroborates this theory. But he did confirm on Wednesday that Mutharika was flown to South Africa dead.
“Prof Bingu wa Mutharika collapsed at around 11.10am on April 5, 2012 in his office and died within minutes, before reaching Kamuzu Central Hospital,” Singini said.
The 78-year-old economist-turned-politician died of cardiac arrest, he added.
“He had a history of heart attacks, having suffered a minor heart attack in 2009,” he said.
Singini said that, although Mutharika reached the hospital already clinically dead, medics tried to resuscitate him.
“Medical personnel made attempts to resuscitate him, and at 2.30pm they pronounced him dead,” he said.
Mutharika’s officials kept his death from the public until April 7, denying in the meantime the raging rumours that he had died. Instead, they flew his body to South Africa “for further treatment”.
When it was officially confirmed that Mutharika had died, three dates of his death were floated – April 5, then April 7, and lastly April 6, 2012.
Though Mutharika had appointed Banda as vice-president, they had later fallen out, and Mutharika’s inner circle then tried to keep him officially alive to give them enough time to plot for his brother to succeed him, official sources said at the time.
Eventually they abandoned the scheme after being persuaded by independent senior officials that it would precipitate a constitutional crisis.
After she took over as president, Banda appointed the commission of inquiry to examine the circumstances of the death of her predecessor.
Banda said yesterday that she would read the report “thoroughly and consult officials on the way forward” before making the full report public.
Apart from establishing how and when Mutharika died, the commission was also to examine how his case was handled from the time he collapsed until the time the government officially announced his death.
Mutharika reportedly died while having a meeting with Lilongwe legislator Agnes Penemulungu in his office.
Independent Foreign Service