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Malawi president dead - government sources

06 April 2012, 11:01

Lilongwe - Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika has died after a heart attack, medical and government sources said on Friday.

The 78-year-old was rushed to a Lilongwe hospital on Friday after collapsing but was dead on arrival, the sources said.

On Thursday, Mutharika was "very critical" after a heart attack and was being flown to South Africa for treatment, a minister said.

A Reuters reporter in Lilongwe witnessed chaotic scenes as the 78-year-old leader's wife, Calista, and senior cabinet ministers left the capital's Kamuzu Central Hospital, where Mutharika was admitted on Thursday after collapsing.

"There was panic," one hospital staffer said. "We have never been prepared for such an eventuality. He suffered a cardiac arrest and the condition is still unstable."

Despite Mutharika's condition, there was little sympathy on the streets of Blantyre, the commercial capital, where many people view him as an autocrat who has mishandled the economy, causing chronic shortages of fuel, food and foreign exchange.

Mutharika, a former World Bank economist, came to power in 2004 and presided over a seven-year economic boom - underpinned by foreign aid and some favourable rains - that made it one of one of the world's fastest-growing countries.

However, the growth came to a juddering halt last year after a dispute with Britain led to tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions and a freezing of millions of dollars of aid.

The move by Malawi's biggest donor exacerbated an already acute dollar shortage, hampering imports of fuel, food and medicines, and leading to a depreciation in the currency, the kwacha, against the dollar.

Mutharika's diplomatic isolation and economic plight worsened in July 2011 when the US shelved a $350m programme to overhaul the dilapidated power grid after police killed 20 people in a crackdown on an unprecedented wave of anti-government protests.

- Reuters


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