The man everybody knew as president Bingu wa Mutharika in life became “Daniel Phiri” in death–at least for a couple of days–as a ploy to disguise his demise to give Malawi Government leaders time to plot succession.
The new name was supposed to help send Mutharika’s remains to South Africa without fanfare since no one would be interested in an ordinary Malawian who was seriously ill and needed to travel to South Africa for medication.
The report of the Commission of Inquiry into circumstances leading to Mutharika’s death and political transition thereafter shows that the name “Daniel Phiri” was coined for travel arrangement.
This was after Mutharika had been declared dead at Kamuzu Central Hospital (KCH) in Malawi’s capital, Lilongwe. The report says he died on his way from State House to KCH although doctors at the hospital made several efforts to resuscitate him.
In the report, the name “Daniel Phiri” is first mentioned in reference to the letter from Malawi’s High Commission in South Africa sent to Net Care Rescue International in that country, guaranteeing that government would meet the costs of hiring an air ambulance to pick a patient from Malawi.
“The High Commissioner [Agrina Mussa] and her deputy [Alexious Godiya] made enquiries about air ambulance services in South Africa. It is in evidence that the Chief Secretary [Bright Msaka] told the High Commissioner to contact Net Care Rescue International in South Africa.
“When they made the contact, Net Care confirmed that an air ambulance was available. They further indicated that they were ready to proceed once they get a letter of guarantee from the High Commission.
“Arrangements were made by the High Commission and a letter of guarantee to meet the expenses was written and sent to Net Care Rescue International, and the air ambulance was secured. That letter dated 5th April 2012 bore the President’s name as “Daniel Phiri”.
“The name Daniel Phiri was also the name for the President on the airport exit documents for his evacuation to South Africa. The first letter was later replaced,” reads the commission’s report in part.
In the report, the commission says it established that Mutharika’s identity was disguised on the particulars of his flight to South Africa although his passport number was correctly indicated.
Mutharika, may his soul rest in peace, later got back his name in time for his burial