Arrests looming for Malawi transition plot: Mutharika death inquiry report unsettles DPP

Former ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has been unsettled with the report of the Commission of Inquiry  into former president, the late President Bingu wa Mutharika  released   with the State set to prosecute a group of former ministers who tried to block President Joyce Banda to rise to power following the death of  her predecessor.

There was an alleged plot by the inner circle of Malawi’s late former leader to block the current President Joyce Banda, who was vice president then, to rise to power.

President Banda told Parliament that he formed the commission of inquiry” to investigate the circumstances and intent of the alleged coup plot.”

Mutharika, who had been president since 2004, died on April 5 , 2012  following a heart attack, the inquiry ruled Wednesday, hoping to lay to rest speculation that he may have been killed.

Kalilani: One of the mid-night six 'coup plotters'
Kalilani: One of the mid-night six ‘coup plotters’

He had anointed his brother Peter, the former foreign affairs minister and now acting president of DPP, as his heir apparent, even though President Banda, as Mutharika’s vice-president, was next in line to succeed him at his death.

When Mutharika died, several ministers had met twice to seek ways of installing Peter Mutharika as the new president instead.

The report has captured “the story of the political transition in considerable detail that depicts in some cases very minute details and graphic presentation of some of the events that took place”, said retired judge Elton Singini, who presented the report to  President Banda.

Singini, who chaired the Commission, said their work “was not a criminal investigation but rather it was an Inquiry to unravel the events of the period.”

He however added that “the Commission is of the view that relevant authorities will be able to draw whatever conclusions they may deem proper from the facts as laid bare in this Report.”

President Banda told Parliament when she set up the commission that “depending on the outcome [of the inquiry], appropriate action will be taken for important lessons to be learned.”

Mid-night six

Nyasa Times also understands that prosecutors are looking at possible leads in the report to pin down former six cabinet ministers who addressed a controversial  news conference  at night on April 5, 2012 to announce the blocking of the then vice-president Joyce Banda from assuming the presidency.

The former ministers implicated court are Patricia Kaliati, who read the statement during the news conference, Symon Vuwa Kaunda, Dr Jean Kalilani, Henry Mussa, Nicholas Dausi and Kondwani Nakhumwa.

They are all members of the opposition DPP which was in power when late Mutharika was Head of State.

Among the things that the ministers said during the news conference which received wide condemnation from various quarters, including Malawi Law Society, was that Banda’s formation of the People’s Party (PP) precludes her from ascending to the presidency

The news conference came after Banda had addressed the media advocating for the respect of Section 83 (4) of the Constitution which was also echoed by former president Bakili Muluzi at a separate press briefing.

“Kaliati spoke against the constitution of the land and tried to usurp the powers of the land. The rest will be charged with conspiracy to over throw a Government. The cases are supposed to come very soon,” said a source at National Police Headquarters prosecution office.

The six have tried to justify their innocence despite addressing a live television and radio conference which is expected to be played during the trial.

Treason in Malawi carries a death penalty.

Apart from Singini, other members of the Commission included retired Inspector General of Police Joseph Aironi, Dr Tiwonge Loga, Dr Elizabeth Sibale, Father Joseph Mpinganjira, Brian Nyasulu, Esther Chioko, lawyer Jabbar Alide and Dr Charles Dzamalala, a pathologist.

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