Malawi’s leading print media house, The Nation, has chronicled the “dramatic” details of how, hours after President Bingu wa Mutharika had been incapacitated with a cardiac arrest on April 5 , the cabinet and DPP officials plotted to subvert the constitution to prevent Her Excellency Joyce Banda from taking over power.
The report indicated that the cabinet except Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Ephraim Mganda Chiume, Finance Minister Ken Lipenga and Attorney General Mbendera were “uncomfortable” with the move to replace the late leader with his brother, Professor Peter Mutharika and Nyasa Times learnt they nominated Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda in absentia to be the vice president.
The DPP gurus are reported to have ordered the Attorney General to track down three judges the same night to sit as a constitutional court and interpret Section 85 of the Constitution to determine whether someone from another party other than DPP can become President in the event of the office holder’s incapacitation or death.
Chief Secretary to the Government Bright Msaka, his deputy Necton Mhura and presidential legal adviser Allan Ntata were also present at the “coup” plotting meeting.
According to The Nation, quoting unnamed cabinet minister, the advice from Ntata was that “using Section 85 of the Constitution, the then Vice-President Joyce Banda had become a second Vice-President by virtue of forming another party. You could not have a First Vice-President from a different party [sic].”
DPP fired Banda from the party in December 2010 after which she formed her own People’s Party (PP).
The report says before Peter Mutharika was formally endorsed, Lipenga proposed Natural Resources, Energy and Environment Minister Goodall Gondwe as acting State President but it was shot down.
The report says Gondwe confirmed to the newspaper being nominated by Lipenga.
The ministers are said to have attended another meeting at night at OPC. The absentees, the report says, were Dr. George Chaponda, Reene Kachere and Professor Mutharika. The first two were reportedly unwell and Mutharika was attending to funeral issues.
During this meeting, the report says the ministers agreed to seek a court interpretation on the matter.
“ The first step was to ask the Attorney General to get a court order stopping any swearing-in until the court interprets the matter, then convene a constitutional court immediately,” the report quotes another unnamed Cabinet member.
Attorney General Mbendera is reported to have advised the ministers of the correct reading of the Constitution, but was overruled and the told the ministers that he was willing to resign as the decision was illegal. Justice Minister Chiume, too, said he would offer to resign according to The Nation.
Chiume reportedly refused to sign the affidavits which were drafted to take the matter to court and Gondwe also refused to append his signature.
To implement their ‘coup’ a committee comprising Local Government Minister Henry Mussa, then Information Minister Patricia Kaliati, Health Minister Dr. Jean Kalirani, Deputy Minister in the OPC Nicholas Dausi and Sports Minister Symon Vuwa Kaunda was formed at around 9.20 pm on Friday to manage the public communication through the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC).
Meanwhile, Chiume and Mbendera never processed the court papers, not known to Kaliati and her ‘coup’ team members, hence Kaliati later cried of betrayal, it was reported.
It was reported that by Saturday morning, at around 7 am, Peter summoned DPP top brass and some senior Cabinet ministers where he asked them not to proceed with their ‘coup’ and instead allow Joyce Banda to assume power.
Apparently, the swearing ceremony of Banda was cancelled by the Chief Justice, saying he had forgotten his gown of authority in Blantyre, 360 kilometres away from Lilongwe.
Nyasa Times learnt, at that time there were still some mechanisation to run away with power.
But, according to Nyasa Times sources, at this time Malawi Defence Force (MDF) Commander General Henry Odillo had indicated that the military will not accept anything other than what the Constitution stipulates. This position was backed by the military rank and file, including advice by army legal expert Lt. col. Dr. Dan Kuwali.
Some ministers had also jumped ship and supported the Constitutional order, they included John Bande and Sidik Mia and his deputy Catherine Gotani.
Mia is reported to have spoken to the Chief Justice informing him that cabinet was giving him authority to go ahead and administer the oath on President Banda.
Malawi Law Society called for prosecution of the “coup” plotters bordering on treason charge.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :