Former-president Dr. Bakili Muluzi addresses Malawian press
Former-president of Malawi Dr. Bakili Muluzi addressed approximately 10 journalists at a press briefing that took place in a board room located on his private residence on Blantyre City Assembly (BCA) Hill at 11:45 a.m. Friday morning.
Muluzi opened the press briefing by welcoming the journalists who had assembled and by giving the following press statement in both English and Chichewa. The full text of the English press statement which Muluzi read at the briefing and provided to journalists who attended follows:
Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen
I have called this press briefing this morning following a number of repeated calls from both local and international media as regards events (sic) of yesterday 5th April 2012 in relation to the health condition of our State President Ngwazi Professor Bingu wa Mutharika.
Last evening, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation carried a news item to the effect that the President is in a stable condition but was expected to be flown to the Republic of South Africa yesterday evening. Thereafter, there has been no news on the health status of the President.
I do appreciate the need and importance of right to privacy in so far as medical matters are concerned. In fact many Malawians and I wish our State President quick (sic) recovery from the present condition so that he can continue governing this country.
As you are aware the office of the State Presidency is at the heart of government business. It is against this background that I am pressed to make a statement on the current state of affairs in our country.
As we all wish our President quick (sic) recovery, may I appeal to all Malawians that let us all remain calm during this very difficult period in our country.
My second appeal is that let there be a Constitutional order.
The present scenario where the Government machinery is almost silent on the health status of our President is very unfortunate; and ought not to continue. It is the Constitutional duty and indeed good practice of the Government to inform its citizen (sic) and the world community timely, accurate and transparent information about the particulars of the ongoing treatment and health condition of their State President especially now when the country is rife with different versions. And I urge the Government spokesperson to be more forthcoming on the matter.
The fact that the State President was flown to the Republic of South Africa and the international media is reporting that he is in a critical condition following heart attack at the New State House tend to suggest that he is incapable of running the affairs of this country. In that event, the Constitution is clear that the Vice President should assume the office of Acting President till such time that the President is certified capable of resuming his duties so that there is no interruption on Government business especially now when the economic situation on the ground is worsening every passing day.
It is important that the doctors that are treating the State President indicate whether he is able to discharge the duties of the office of President or not. If their position is that he is not able then a Board of independent medical practitioners be (sic) appointed as soon as possible to certify whether he is indeed so incapacitated.
In the event that he is so incapacitated then the Vice President and majority of cabinet ministers are obliged to sign the said declaration and the Vice President is duty bound to submit the said declaration to the Speaker of Parliament.
Upon submission of the declaration, the Vice President is required to immediately assume the powers and duties of the office of President as Acting President.
It is for situations like the one we are faced today (sic) that the framers of our Constitution provided for positions of Acting President and smooth transition to ensure that national matters are not left in abeyance.
It is thus clear that all holders of the Constitutional offices of the Vice President, Cabinet Ministers and Chief Justice are expected to put the national interest above everything else to ensure that there is no power vacuum and that peace, tranquility, law and order continue in this country.
My humble appeal to all politicians involved both in Government and those in opposition is that they should put the interest of the country ahead as we anxiously await to hear from the doctors attending upon the State President.
I call upon everyone to pray for our State President so that he recovers from this sudden illness as quickly as possible.
I call upon these office holders to start talking to each other and deal with the situation as a matter of urgency especially now when there are too many stories on the internet.
May the good Lord continue blessing Malawi
God Bless you all
Dr Bakili Muluzi
FORMER STATE PRESIDENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF MALAWI
Following the dictation of his official press statement, Muluzi opened the floor to the press to ask questions.
The first question was posed by the BBC’s Raphael Tenthani and asked if Muluzi had had any official communication with the current government, to which Muluzi replied, “no we have not been officially communicated which I think is most unfortunate,” adding, “but we know what has been going on” based on “unofficial information.”
Muluzi refused to speculate in response to further questions on the current medical condition of the president and urged journalists and Malawians to “wait for an official communication from government.”
When asked for comments on the capacity of government to act on the constitution in the case of the president’s incapacitation or death, Muluzi further emphasized the need for government to have “constitutional order” and stated, “to follow the constitution is the best way to do it… we have no choice.”
Muluzi recalled being in South Africa when then-president Dr. Nelson Mandela took ill, and that the government did not hide information but allowed cameras to follow Mandela to the hospital and had the vice president issue a timely, accurate and transparent press statement. Before concluding the press briefing he asked why Malawi government has not been able to do the same.
Outside the press briefing Muluzi beckoned me to his car window where he explained why he felt compelled to hold a press briefing in the absence of any official communication to the nation by the state. With no official communication from government to the people of Malawi “there will just be confusion,” he said.
At that time Muluzi also stated that “they (cabinet) want to call parliament to change the constitution… they can’t do that.”