Some cabinet ministers on Friday night confirmed fears of an attempt to subvert the constitution in their quest to cling on to power by saying they will not accept Vice President Joyce Banda to take over the presidency following President Bingu wa Mutharika’s death.
Government spokesperson Patricia Kaliati told a news conference Friday night that Banda cannot take over the presidency because she was formed her own opposition party.
The news conference was attended the ministers of Minister of Health Jean Kalirani who is also deputy president of the ruling Democratic Progressive Party, deputy minister in the Office of the President and Cabinet Nicholas Dausi, Minister of Local Government and Rural Development who is also director of political affairs in the party Henry Mussa, Minister of Youth and Sports Development Symon Vuwa Kaunda and deputy minister of Foreign Affairs Kondwani Nankhumwa who was director of events.
Kaliati said it was unfortunate that Banda and former president Bakili Muluzi said earlier in the day that there was a vacancy in the presidency.
“Government would like to inform the public that the statements made by the vice president and echoed by former president Bakili Muluzi that there is vacancy are misleading. Information about the condition of the president will be made in due course. We will be here tomorrow,” said Kaliati who looked visibly dejected as a mourner .
“Government appeals to Malawians to remain calm and not listen to anybody but official government sources,” she added.
She also dismissed reports that Parliament intends to meet on Tuesday over the succession of the presidency.
“Parliament has no role in this,” she said.
But she emphasized that the vice president will not be allowed to take over because she left government and started her own party.
Earlier in the day, the VP appealed to government to allow the Constitution to apply thus allowing her to take over.
Lawyers said the ministers were uttering words to bring into hatred, contempt or to excite disaffection against the person holding the office of the President- Joyce Banda.
Lawyer Wapona Kita told Nyasa Times that Section 83 (4) says the Vice President automatically takes over.
“The words that have been uttered at that press conference are seditious coming within the ambit of Section 50 as read with Section 51(1) (b) of the Penal Code,” he said.
“I would wish for the time being, we all get sober and concentrate on the condition of our President whilst the dictates of the Constitution takes its course,” he advised.
Meanwhile, United States government expressed alarm at an apparent delay in swearing in his vice president as successor.
Late Mutharika appeared to have been grooming his brother Peter, the foreign minister, as his de facto successor.
“Malawi’s constitution lays out a clear path for succession and we expect it to be observed. We are concerned about the delay in the transfer of power,” the U.S. State Department said in a statement.
“We trust that the vice president who is next in line will be sworn in shortly.”
At a news conference late on Friday, Her Excellency Banda, refused to say whether she had become southern Africa’s first female head of state.
She has however met diplomats and military chiefs, signalling she intends to take charge.
The 78-year-old Mutharika was rushed to hospital in Lilongwe on Thursday after collapsing, and was dead on arrival, the medical and government sources said.
His body was flown to South Africa because an energy crisis in the nation of 13 million was so severe the Lilongwe state hospital would have been unable to conduct a proper autopsy or even keep his body refrigerated, the sources said.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :