Friday, October 14, 2011

Bingu denies apologising

Bingu denies apologising
By Chibaula Silwamba
Fri 14 Oct. 2011, 13:58 CAT

PRESIDENT Bingu wa Mutharika has never issued an apology or regret concerning the deportation of Michael Sata from Malawi, says the Malawian leader's spokesperson Hetherwick Ntaba.

In a telephone interview from Malawi yesterday, Dr Ntaba denied issuing a statement that President wa Mutharika regretted the deportation of President Sata. President Sata was deported from Malawi in 2007 when he was Zambia's main opposition leader.

The Times of Zambia on Wednesday quoted Dr Ntaba as having said President wa Mutharika regretted the deportation of President Sata and remained hopeful that any misunderstandings would be resolved without delay.

But Dr Ntaba asked: "That statement is attributed to who? Who made that statement?"

When told that it was attributed to him, Dr Ntaba responded: "No! I never said that. I don't know where he the reporter is getting it from."

He said his statement was very clear and did not mention anything to do with regret or apology.

"The statement I said was that this was an action that was taken at that time, right now the situation is different because we have now President Michael Sata. The President cannot be considered as a prohibited immigrant,"

Dr Ntaba said. "We said whatever fears there are or if people are spreading the story that he President Sata is still a prohibited immigrant in Malawi as head of state is not true. That is the issue in the statement that was issued from the President's office. The statement that there was an apology or that the President highly regrets, it's not accurate. I don't think they are quoting the President accurately."

He said Malawi and Zambia enjoy diplomatic relations and there was no way the former could arrest the latter's head of state.

"He is not a prohibited immigrant now as head of state. We have diplomatic relations and no head of state can be prohibited in a country which has full diplomatic relations with it. That's what I said," Dr Ntaba said.

"But to say that the President regrets the deportation of Michael Sata that was never said from Malawi, from me or anyone in the Presidency. The statement remains the same one which was issued a few days ago."

When reminded that President Sata's Malawi-based lawyer Ralph Kasambara was concerned that the prohibited immigrant status might resurface when President Sata leaves office because it had not been formally revoked, Dr Ntaba said there was no need to speculate.

"When is he President Sata going to leave office? I don't know whether it serves any purpose for us to start speculating on what will happen when Mr Michael Sata retires," said Dr Ntaba.

President Sata, who was elected on September 20, 2011, last Saturday turned down President wa Mutharika's invitation for him to attend the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) heads of state summit in Malawi starting tomorrow.

President Sata demanded for an apology over his deportation and revocation of the prohibited immigrant declaration imposed on him in 2007. Former president of Malawi Bakili Muluzi on Sunday urged President Mutharika to apologise to President Michael Sata.

Muluzi, who ruled Malawi between 1994 and 2004 when he handpicked Mutharika to succeed him, said it was most unfortunate that the Mutharika government arrested and bundled his guest into an immigration vehicle and deported him.

Zambia's former High Commissioner to Malawi Milton Phiri said President Mutharika must admit that he erred and offer unconditional apology to President Sata and Zambians.

Several prominent people in Zambia and Malawi condemned President wa Mutharika and encouraged him to apologise to his Zambian counterpart.

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