Zuma rescinds decision to attend Mutharika’s burial

South African President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma has rescinded his decision to join six other African leaders to attend the burial ceremony of Malawi’s departed President Bingu wa Mutharika.

Earlier, the Malawi Government had announced that seven African Heads of State and Government who included Zuma would be present during the burial ceremony scheduled for Monday next week.

Henry Mussa, Local Government Minister and Chair of the funeral organizing committee, said government had received fresh communication that President Zuma will not make it.Zuma: Not coming

No further reasons were given for the sudden change of program.

“Earlier we announced that President Jacob Zuma of South Africa was among the seven presidents who have confirmed their coming to attend burial but we have now received communication that he will be represented by his deputy, Kgalema Motlanthe,” Mussa said Thursday afternoon.

Reports say Zuma is planning to marry for the sixth time, making long-term fiancee Gloria Bongi Ngema his fourth current wife.

Zuma is a Zulu traditionalist and polygamy is legal in South Africa.

The development now leaves only six African presidents who have already confirmed their attendance. These include late Mutharika’s close comrade Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete,  Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia and Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki.

Others also expected to be present are Armando Guebuza of Mozambique and Thomas Yayi Boni of Benin who is also current chair of the African Union.

Mussa also said the Chinese Government which had close ties with the departed leader will send the minister of internal affairs while Angola will be represented by its speaker of the National Assembly,
António Paulo Kassoma.

Meanwhile, the minister has clarified the exact date Mutharika died following confusion that arose over the it.

“According to Dr. Dan Namalikha of Kamuzu Central Hospital, who was at the late president’s death bed, the former head of state actually died on 6th April in South Africa,” Mussa clarified.

Earlier, a white cross carried by a Malawi Defense Force solider ahead of Mutharika’s casket, indicated that the late Malawian president died on April 7th.

The cross was later changed from April 7th to 6th creating more confusion on his actual death date.

However, close medical personnel confided in the media Mutharika actually died on April 5th at the Kamuzu Central Hospital in Lilongwe where he was rushed after collapsing following a cardiac arrest.

His body arrived from South Africa on 14 April, and it has since then been lying in state at the New State House (his Lilongwe official home), New Parliament Building (Lilongwe), Mzuzu State Lodge in
Northern Malawi and currently it lies at Sanjika Palace in Blantyre, Southern Malawi.

Malawians in Southern and Eastern Regions will continue paying their last respects until Sunday at 6.00pm before burial on Monday, April 23 at his mausoleum- Mpumulo wa bata– he constructed at his Ndata Farm in  Thyolo district.

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