|Banda fires Mutharika’s widow|
|Saturday, 05 May 2012 00:00|
The 61-year-old has swept Mutha-rika’s backers out of key posts since taking office on April 7, including firing his brother Peter as foreign minister.
Peter Mutharika had been styled as a successor to the president and was accused of plotting to seize power after the leader’s sudden death from a heart attack last month.
The late leader is alleged to have sacked Banda from the motherhood job and replaced her with his wife. The former first lady, once a tourism minister, was allegedly earning US$7 500 a month. Mutharika’s move had angered civil society which demanded that his wife’s salary be scrapped as they argued it was for all intents charity work. Ngema’s appointment was with effect from yesterday.
Last week, Banda unveiled a 23-member cabinet and gave herself several key portfolios to beef up her powers as southern Africa’s first female president. Amid major shortfalls of fuel and foreign currency, she has also moved swiftly to restore donor confidence and vowed to address concerns previously voiced by key lenders after major falling outs with Mutharika.
In another development, the Mala-wian leader yesterday hinted that she might act against a group of ministers who tried to block her rise to power following the death of her predecessor Bingu wa Mutharika.
Banda described as a “coup” the attempt to keep her from inheriting the presidency after Mutharika died of a heart attack.
“This issue is not about me Joyce Banda. The coup plot was against this country and not me,” she said at a news conference in the capital Lilongwe, which was broadcast on state radio. “It is a national issue. All of us are concerned. It will depend on what we do now as a nation to ensure that such a thing does not occur again in future,” said Banda.
State media staged a blackout on Mutharika’s condition after he suffered a fatal heart attack on April 5.
Six ministers held a news conference after Mutharika’s death to maintain he was still alive.
Rights groups have called on the government to charge the ministers with treason. Banda was finally sworn into office on April 7, inheriting an impoverished economy that needs US$1 billion “to get right”, she said.
Unconfirmed reports say president Banda yesterday asked the African Union to prevent Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on genocide charges from attending the AU Summit to be held in Malawi in July.
“I have written them because of the economic implications this may have on Malawi,” she told a news conference. Malawi’s budget relies on overseas assistance for about 40 percent of its funds. — Sapa/AFP/Reuters/The Herald.