Malawi Chief Justice Lovemeore Munlo has told senior government officials that they would have to transfer power to Vice President Joyce Banda as per constitutional requirement following the death of President Bingu wa Mutharika.
Government’s prolonged silence on the president’s condition raised fears of an attempt to subvert the constitution.
The senior minister was plotting to endorse the President’s brother Peter Mutharika, Foreign Affairs Minister, to inherit power.
Chief Justice and Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda were approached on the matter.
The Chief Justice told them it was impossible not to give power to Banda, saying this would be the same as staging a coup.
he Retired president Bakili Muluzi said it was automatic the vice-president should take power until 2014.
“I am calling for a constitutional order for continued peace and order,” Muluzi told journalists at his residence in Limbe, outside the commercial hub Blantyre. “The laws of Malawi are very clearly that the vice-president takes over.”
He added: “We have to avoid a situation where there is disorder. Let us follow the constitution. We have no choice but follow the constitution. It’s very important that there must be peace and calm.”
Civil society groups urged a smooth transition. Benedicto Kondowe, executive director of the Civil Society Education Coalition, said: “The constitution very clearly states that the vice-president shall assume power for the remaining term of office. I don’t think the ruling party will manoeuvre because there is no law that can support such a process. I don’t think Malawians are ready for any attempt to bend the constitution.”
Banda could bring a welcome shift of direction, Kondowe added. “For sure I think there might be a number of changes. It is not an easy job looking at the political and economic situation, but we hope she may be able to steer the country to what Malawians want.
“She has a challenge to transform the image of the country. Regionally and internationally it has been greatly affected. She needs to restore donor confidence in Malawi as a peace loving country.”