/ 7 April 2012

Succession battle ended as Banda to lead Malawi

Malawi’s Vice President Joyce Banda will be sworn in later Saturday as the nation’s new leader, following the death of Bingu wa Mutharika, an information ministry official told Agence France Presse (AFP).

Banda will become Malawi’s first female leader, two days after a heart attack killed 78-year-old Mutharika.

“This afternoon the information that I have from my seniors is the right honourable Joyce Banda, the vice president of the republic, is going to be sworn in as president and head of state of the Malawi nation,” said Isaac Ziba, the ministry’s director of information.

The ceremony will take place at Malawi’s Parliament, and afterward she will inspect a guard of honour, he said.

Soldiers were already posted on the street leading to the parliament and searching cars arriving for the ceremony.

Banda takes power after two days of backroom political wrangling with Mutharika’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party, which expelled her in 2010 when he decided to groom his brother as his successor.

Banda now heads her own People’s Party, which has emerged as a fierce critic of Mutharika’s handling of the troubled economy.

Zuma sends condolences
Earlier on Saturday President Jacob Zuma sent his condolences to the people of Malawi following the confirmation of the death of their president Bingu wa Mutharika.

“As the government and the people of South Africa, we reach out in our thoughts and prayers to the people of Malawi during this difficult time of mourning the death of president Mutharika,” Zuma said in a statement.

Zuma called on the people of Malawi to remain calm.

“We are confident that Malawi’s democratic institutions will ensure a peaceful and orderly transition,” he said.

The Democratic Alliance said Mutharika would be remembered for bringing development to his country.

“The president will be remembered for his guiding role in bringing economic growth and development to Malawi, for his leadership in the African Union, and for his commitment to a prosperous future for Africa,” DA leader Helen Zille’s chief of staff Geordin Hill-Lewis said in a statement.

“His ethos and vision for the continent are best summed up in his own call for “Africa to develop Africa”.

“We wish the Acting President, Joyce Banda, all of the best in her difficult task of leading Malawi in the interim period until democratic elections can be held,” said Hill-Lewis. — Sapa, AFP