Joyce Banda says Malawi Constitution gives her presidency

Malawi’s Vice President Joyce Banda has told journalists that as per Constitution requirement she is now in control of the state of affairs since President Bingu wa Mutharika got incapacitated on Thursday but said a formal death announcement of Mutharika will be made.

Mutharika died on Thursday April 5 dead following a heart attack but most ordinary Malawians have yet to receive the news due to an official silence in the state media.

Her Excellency Madam Joyce Banda

Government’s prolonged silence on the president’s condition raised fears of an attempt to subvert the constitution.

Speaking at a news conference on Good Friday, Her Excellency Banda gave a careful statement regarding state of affairs and in a typical Malawian way of humbleness told the nation she was in charge without spelling it out.

“I am waiting to be told by the South African authorities regarding the health status of our President” she said in her news briefing.

Banda called for calm in the nation, saying the announcement will be made after getting formal report from South Africa where the President was flown on Thursday night clinically dead.

She described media reports of the President’s death as “speculation” saying the official version will be communicated.

“I have been in contact with the South African government today to tell us the truth of the matter because the international media all over the world have conflicting information,” said Her Excellency Banda.

She was flanked at the news conference by her husband a former Malawi and Swaziland Chief Justice Richard Banda and also in attendance former Attorney General Ralph Kasambara.

Her Excellency Banda said Malawians deserve to know the truth about the condition of their President, saying the citizens “in the dark.”

She said the country “should adhere to the Constitution of the Republic of Malawi.”

The Constitution, said Her Excellency Banda “state that if the President is incapacitated, the Vice President shall assume office or if there is vacancy to that office.”

Banda added: “It is my sincere hope that Malawians shall adhere to the Constitution. The good news is that across the nation, all stakeholders are unanimous on this thinking.”

The Malawi leader said: “I shall call you back members of the media to brief you on the official position”, adding “I am informed that by the end of today we shall get the official statement in Malawi.”

Mutharika was undergoing embalming process at the South African hospital.

There were reports of some people in the ruling party trying to force Parliament to convene and change the constitution not to allow the Vice President to assume office.

Lawyer Wapona Kita says “its automatic” that Her Excellency Banda takes over the presidency.

Kita said the constitution “clearly states that in the event of incapacitation or death of the president, the vice president takes over.”

He said: “The reality on the ground is that Joyce Banda takes over until the remainder of the term in 2014, unless someone wants to change the rules,” he said.

Banda formed her own People’s Party after being sacked from the ruling party. Mutharika then filed a case at the High Court seeking to force her from office, arguing that his running mate had become an opposition figure.

Meanwhile, the civil society activist have told a news conference at Riverside Hotel in Lilongwe that they are calling for a peaceful succession and constitutional order, allowing Banda to take over power.

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