Malawians went to bed last night with a cloud of uncertainty following the admission of President Bingu wa Mutharika to Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Lilongwe for cardiac arrest and his expected subsequent airlifting to Johannesburg for further treatment.
State House, in a statement broadcast on MBC last evening, confirmed the Presidentâ€™s illness, saying he would be flown to South Africa to be attended to by experts and that Malawians would be updated on progress.
As news trickled in the afternoon that Mutharika was gravely ill in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at KCH in Lilongwe, the country and citizens in diaspora went into an inquiring mode on the Presidentâ€™s health.
Sources said a comatose Mutharika arrived at KCH at around 11.30 am in an ambulance, a dark green Toyota Land Cruiser, which was later given plates MG948AB. Two other vehicles that escorted him were a Toyota Prado BN1462 and a Toyota Fortuner BR4473.
State House security detail cleared the KCH car park and moved some patients and hospital workers to the out patients department, according to a hospital worker. The President was ferried on a stretcher into the hospitalâ€™s ICU.
The heavy presence of senior government officials at KCH, including some Cabinet ministers, the Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC) Bright Msaka, the First Lady Callista Mutharika, close family members and friends, among others, heightened speculation that the Presidentâ€™s health had deteriorated.
While doctors and administration officials were tight-lipped about the development,Â speculation was rife that Mutharika was dead, as some KCH nurses were seen either crying openly or fighting back tears as they ran to the ICU with drips and other medical supplies.
The entrance to the unit was cordoned off by security and only the hospitalâ€™s staff and special guests were allowed in. Visitors for other patients in the ICU were seen standing in the corridor as they could not enter the section.
The First Lady arrived at the hospital at about 1.40pm in a black Mercedes Benz MG337AB. She entered through the hospitalâ€™s emergency section with a sombre face. She left the hospital before 3.30pm. She left together with the Presidentâ€™s daughter, Duwa Mubaira, who also wore a sombre face. The Presidentâ€™s son, Madalitso, had left earlier.
The hospitalâ€™s director, Noordeen Alide, was also seen running from one section of the hospital to another, trying to organise things.
Other officials who also went earlier to see the President included Energy Minister Goodall Gondwe, Inspector General of Police Peter Mukhito, director general of National Intelligence Services, Bintony Kutsaira, director general of State Residences Edward Sawerengera and presidential adviser on religious affairs the Reverend Billy Gama. They left much earlier.
The ambulance carrying Mutharika reportedly left KCH at 9:35 pm for Kamuzu International Airport.
The airport remained open till early this morning, with State House vehicles going in and out as well as the plane that came with four people (presumably doctors) from South Africa still in sight. There was no immediate sign that the President went through the facility after leaving KCH, creating speculatiion that he might have gone through the old Army airportâ€”which has no lights, or that the doctors were treating him at base before flying him out.
But by 12:15am, activity showed the President was flown out.
Meanwhile, The Nation correspondent in Johannesburg said Mutharika was expected at Lanseria Airport, where there was a crowd of reporters.
The correspondent said there was heavy security at Milpark Hospital, where the President was expected.
lThe President was expceted to be flown to South Africa last night for specialist treatment.
lMutharika, 78, has no known history of cardiac problems