8 October 2016

Malawi Leader Mutharika's Prolonged Stay Abroad Triggers Illness Rumours

Photo: Nyasa Times
President Peter Mutharika inspects guard of honour (file photo).

Malawians have taken to the media to demand the exact whereabouts of President Peter Mutharika in the United States.

Mutharika's absence without leave in Malawi two weeks after attending the United Nations General Assembly has created a lot of rumours, including allegations that he is hospitalised in the US.

An influential quasi-religious body, the Public Affairs Committee has slammed government for the continued secrecy surrounding Mutharika's prolonged stay abroad.

"Mutharika is a public figure, therefore, as a public figure Malawians have a right to know to [his] whereabouts," the religious body said.

Meanwhile, a local online newspaper Malawi24 has speculated that Mutharika is seriously ill in the US.

The paper quoted sources who claimed that, Mutharika had planned to return to Malawi on Tuesday but was forced to extend his stay in US due to his condition.

Heavy security

"There is heavy security guarding where Mutharika is and people are not allowed to see him, a situation which has raised eyebrows and added more weight to the rumour circulating that Mutharika is seriously sick. Security details are not allowed to use their phones as they are all suspects to be leaking info," the paper quoted a facebook posting by Gerald Kampanikiza.

Meanwhile, #BringBackMutharika has been trending on Twitter as Malawians have become frustrated with the misinformation regarding Mutharika's prolonged stay in the US.

Malawi's information minister Malison Ndau has, however, rubbished the reports.

"Our State President is as fit as a fiddle. He is busy holding important meetings in the US," he told News24 in an interview.

Ndau admitted that he was aware of the speculations about Mutharika making rounds in the media.

He said that Mutharika will return home this weekend and he will respond to people's concerns.

African leaders are notoriously known for the habit of hiding their ailments. Oftentimes governments dismiss reports of illnesses of the presidents and prime ministers on the continent.

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