Malawi former president medical assessment in limbo

By Emmanuel Muwamba – Former Malawi President Bakili Muluzi trip to South Africa for his scheduled medical review remains a mystery because government has refused to fund him.

Muluzi has since sought a court intervention so that the government’s decision is reviewed. He argues that the government’s decision is unconstitutional adding that it violates his right to medical treatment by a physician of his choice.

Former health minister Dr Hetherwick Ntaba who is also President Bingu wa Mutharika spokesperson has insisted that government will not finance Muluzi’s trip to South Africa, arguing that the former Head of State should first be assessed by independent local physicians.

Muluzi who ruled Malawi from 1994 to 2004 was scheduled to travel for medical review on November 27, 2010 but government denied him funding. He has had several operations on his slipped discs on the lumber since 2005.

The former president is facing graft charges in the High Court. He is answering to 12 counts of corruption involving a person employed in public office. He pleaded not guilty to charges.

But the progress of the case has stalled because Muluzi says he is not fit to stand trial.

On Tuesday Ntaba said Muluzi should first be assessed by independent doctors a precedent set on former dictator Hastings when he was being tried on murder charges.

“I reported to the then Muluzi administration that Kamuzu’s BP could not withstand hostile interrogation from young and exited lawyers, but the Muluzi government ordered independent doctors to verify my assessment and came to the exact conclusion,” Ntaba told state-broadcaster, Malawi Broadcasting Corporation.

He said Muluzi should go through the same procedure to be assessed by independent doctors.

But Muluzi’s local neurosurgeon Dr. George Mtafu told private radio station Capital FM that what Ntaba was urging was unethical in medical practice.

“It is unethical in medical terms… Dr Muluzi needs to be assessed by his doctors in South Africa from there the doctors will write a report,” said Ntafu.

Muluzi has appealed to government to give him his entitlement to free medical service and a physician.

The former president’s son, Atupele, a legislator has also sounded concern that the former president’s delicate health was in danger.

In November, Muluzi’s lawyers applied to the court for a six-week medical assessment. High Court Judge McLean Kamwambe, who also refused an application by the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) for an independent doctor to examine Muluzi to establish whether he was fit to stand trial, granted the request.

Muluzi was initially charged with 86 counts of corruption following his arrest in 2009 in connection with the alleged theft of 12 million dollars in aid and state money.

The corruption and theft charges were dropped by the state in 2006.