Malawi's President Mutharika dies, mourned by few
By Mabvuto Banda
LILONGWE (Reuters) - Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika has died after a heart attack, medical and government sources said on Friday, although few of his countrymen mourned a leader widely seen as an autocrat responsible for a stunning economic collapse.
The 78-year-old was rushed to hospital in Lilongwe on Thursday after collapsing but was dead on arrival, the sources said. State media said he had been flown to South Africa for treatment although his immediate whereabouts remained unclear.
Medical sources said the ex-World Bank economist had been flown out 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.
Many Malawians blame Mutharika personally for the economic woes, which stem ultimately from a diplomatic spat with former colonial power Britain a year ago.
"We know he is dead and unfortunately he died at a local, poor hospital which he never cared about - no drugs, no power," said Chimwemwe Phiri, a Lilongwe businessman waiting in a snaking line of cars for fuel at a petrol station.
As rumours of the death of the self-styled "economist in chief" swept the capital on Thursday, there were even pockets of drunken jubilation among those who criticised his rule for turning back the clock on 18 years of democracy in the "Warm Heart of Africa".
"I am yet to see anyone shedding a tear for Bingu," said Martin Mlenga, another businessman. "We all wished him dead, sorry to say that."
The constitution is clear that Vice-President Joyce Banda should take over as head of state, although a smooth transition has not been assured since Banda was booted out of Mutharika's ruling DPP party in 2010 after an argument about succession. Continued...