Former legal adviser to former president the late Bingu wa Mutharika Allan Ntata has made a public confession that there were nocturnal meetings by the politburo of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) heavy weights after the death of Bingu trying to prevent Joyce Banda succeeding him.
Ntata has revealed that there was indeed an attempt to install the late President’s brother, Prof. Peter Mutharika, as Head of despite the Constitution clearly stating that in the event of the President’s incapacitation or death, the Vice President (then Joyce Banda) automatically steps in.
Despite news spreading that the economist-turned-politician had died that fateful day, the DPP government procrastinated with senior government officials insisting Bingu wa Mutharika was simply sick and was flown in the night to a military hospital in South Africa “for further treatment”.
“On 6 April 2012, I was in Blantyre when I was asked to immediately travel to the office of the Attorney General (Justice Maxon Mbendera) in Lilongwe for an emergency meeting. When I arrived, the Attorney General informed me that President Bingu wa Mutharika had died, and that the Minister of Justice, Ephraim Chiume, who was present in the room had instructions for us. Chiume then informed me that he had instructions from the Cabinet that the Attorney General together with me and other government lawyers should look at how the Vice President could be prevented from taking over,” writes Ntata.
Ntata explained that the legal documents for the injunction were frantically put together, but “astonishingly” when Chiume was asked to sign the affidavits, he declined and suggested that Goodall Gondwe, then Minister of Energy and Mining, and DPP first Vice President, should sign it.
“The significance of his refusal was to come to light later as he was the first Minister to defect from the DPP to the Joyce Banda’s PP. Even more revealing was the fact that Chiume now started pointing fingers at his former ministerial colleagues in the DPP, claiming that they had hatched a plot to prevent Banda from taking over the presidency in preference to Mutharika’s brother, Peter.”
According to Ntata, later that same night, he was invited to a meeting that was taking place in the conference room at the Office of the President and Cabinet at Capital Hill.
“Assembled there were all cabinet ministers and other senior government and DPP officials. They wanted an update on the status of the injunction since the Attorney General was busy elsewhere. As some of the individuals present were uninformed about the injunction, I explained what the legal issues were and why the legal team felt an application for an injunction was justified in the circumstances.
“In this meeting, it was observed that rumours were fuelling growing apprehension and tension in the country as no official announcement had been made to the nation about the condition of the President. It was decided that a statement be made by the Minister of Information, Patricia Kaliati, informing the Country that the President had been flown to South Africa and that as of that point there was no need to discuss succession matters until such a time as it was officially announced that President Mutharika had died,” continued Ntata in his explanation.
The statement was composed by a group of individuals that included several cabinet ministers and some ranking officials in the office of the president and cabinet.
Ministers Patricia Kaliati, Henry Mussa, Kondwani Nankhumwa, Nicholas Dausi, Jean Kalilani and Vuwa Kaunda convened a mid-night press conference challenging that no matter what happens, former president Joyce Banda who was the then vice president will not take over as per constitution requirement.
Section 83 (3) of the constitution says whenever there is a vacancy in the office of president, the vice president shall assume that office for the remainder of the term.
“In the end, the attorney general was unable to find a panel of judges to hear the matter and grant the injunction, and the idea of obtaining an injunction was abandoned,” stated Ntata who was believed to be on Malawi Police wanted list for treason charges.
Ntata left the country for the United Kingdom (UK) before the late Mutharika was buried.
In March 2013, police claimed he was charged in absentia alongside Peter Mutharika, former Cabinet ministers in the Bingu wa Mutharika administration and former chief secretary to the Government Bright Msaka were charged with treason.
In his confession, Ntata stated that it appears that the ‘midnight six’ discussions as they felt the discomforts of prison cells and the inconveniences of the treason trial, they blamed all their plight on the absentee legal counsel, convincing Peter Mutharika and others that Ntata was the reason for their arrests.
“Today, I have become the scapegoat for the younger Mutharika and his ministers’ arrest and prison ordeal. Perhaps the trauma needed a victim in order to heal, someone they can point to for the plight they suffered and also the perfect excuse to accuse me of various things simply because I happened to be elsewhere when they were arrested,” writes Ntata.
“ Having worked with Malawian politicians, I am not surprised. In Malawian politics, it helps to massage the president and to give him someone to blame for his tribulations! But, truth is truth. It is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is!” Ntata stated.
Peter Mutharika reportedly asked the military to take over after his brother’s death but that the then army commander Gen Henry Odillo had refused his request to seize power.
Mutharika treason charges and others were dropped after winning last year’s elections.
He still claims the case was politically motivated by the former ruling People’s Party, as “Satanic machinations aimed at gaining political mileage.”
Bingu wa Mutharika, 78, died suddenly on April 5 after suffering a cardiac arrest.
He was rushed to Kamuzu Central Hospital in the capital after collapsing in his office during a meeting with Lilongwe legislator Agnes Penemulungu.
Cardiologists failed to resuscitate him after three attempts.
Reports say his transfer from office to hospital was chaotic, with nobody alerting the public hospital that a VIP patient was being brought in.
The hospital also reportedly lacked the required drugs to aid the resuscitation efforts.
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