Malawi Congress Party (MCP) and People’s Party (PP) yesterday argued that President Peter Mutharika is unwell and implored on government to give him a rest and thorough treatment.
But presidential press secretary Mgeme Kalirani yesterday dismissed the appeal, saying: “We don’t have information that His Excellency the President is not feeling well.”
The sentiments from the two main opposition parties represented in Parliament are echoed by Boniface Dulani, a political scientist based at Chancellor College of the University of Malawi (Unima) who said from pictures showing Mutharika’s arrival at Kamuzu International Airport on Sunday it was apparent he was unwell.
In separate interviews with The Nation, Dulani alongside MCP president and leader of opposition Lazarus Chakwera and PP acting president Uladi Mussa said government needs to immediately confirm the President’s apparent ill- health.
In his comment, Chakwera said although only medical doctors can ascertain the status of one’s health, he was worried with what he saw on television relays during Mutharika’s arrival from the United States of America (USA) where he attended the 71st United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
He said: “My wish is for the government spokespersons to come out clearly on this and let us all know [about the ill-health] so that we pray for our leader… His health is extremely important to the nation that he serves.
“I would hope that we tell each other the truth. A person of his calibre is no ordinary person. He is everyone’s President and, as a nation, we need to know what is going on.”
On whether he was not being insensitive and alarmist when the media quoted him as having said that the President ought to resign, Chakwera said he was speaking in a campaign rally context, not reflecting on the Malawi leader’s health.
He said he was addressing a by-election campaign rally for a councillor at Bembeke, in Dedza District and he referred to the government’s need for resignation over many governance failures.
Chakwera urged the government to facilitate the passing of the Access to Information (ATI) Bill, in its original form, so that ordinary Malawians, including journalists, can access reliable information as a right and, thereby, eliminate rumour-mongering.
On his part, Mussa said Mutharika’s arrival scenes in Lilongwe proved that he was in ill-health.
He said that as a result government and governing Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) should apologise to the nation for hiding the fact that the Malawi leader was unwell while abroad and needed to stay on in the USA for thorough medical treatment.
Mussa said if government comes out in the open about the President’s ill health, people would be praying to God to give their leader quick and complete recovery.
He said: “Actually, the President needs full rest for his recovery. Let Vice-President Saulos Chilima lead the nation, in the interim, as the President recuperates.”
Among other things, Mutharika, known to be a right-handed person, was seen waving at a large crowd and greeting dignitaries using his left hand, as his right hand was inactive. He was also seen to walk stiffly towards the end of his airport arrival formalities, including inspecting a guard of honour.
The President’s left hand oddity seemed to partly resonate with social media reports and rumours that he had extended his USA visit because he had fallen seriously ill and had undergone an operation.
But authorities have dismissed suggestions of the President being ill, with Minister of Information and Communications Technology Malison Ndau declaring in a statement two weeks ago that Mutharika was “enjoying a robust health” in the USA.
The minister said the extended stay enabled the President to meet development partners and some potential investors.
The President is yet to address the nation after his arrival. In recent times, the President has been addressing the media at the State House days after arrival.
Meanwhile, asked whether State House would issue any statement over people’s widespread observations that the President seems unwell, Kalirani yesterday said: “We [in his office] don’t have information that His Excellency the President is not feeling well. And in the absence of that information, it is very difficult for us to comment any further. ”
Probed further on who would need to issue the information on the President’s ill-health, if at all, Kalirani said the State House has an internal system to that effect.
During a telephone interview yesterday afternoon, Ndau said he could not yet give the government’s position over the public concerns about the President’s health.
He said he was in Durban, South Africa, on duty and he was not at the airport when Mutharika returned home and is said to have looked unwell. However, Ndau said he would make all efforts to get the official stand, by later last night, over the people’s concerns for the President.
Dulani lamented the fact that the government seemed to be withholding information on the President’s health until people found out on their own through television pictures during Mutharika’s return home yesterday.
“Clearly, this is an individual that is in poor health. You know, the problem is that we are not medical doctors.
“If the people close to the President tell us that he is in good health, despite I think the signs that he is not, it’s really difficult for us to wish him quick recovery or, indeed, [decide] that he needs medical care,” he stated.
Dulani stressed that Mutharika needs to access the best medical care not only because he is the President, but also because he is useful and is closely attached to his own children, relatives and friends and general community members.
“It’s terribly unfortunate, if he is indeed in bad shape and yet government wants to pretend that he is in good condition. What do they gain politically by pretending that he is okay when, obviously, from the pictures, he is not?” he queried.
Dulani advised that while the President recuperates, it is important to use the Constitutional provision that the Vice-President takes over the running of this country. n