Malawian government has confirmed that President Bingu wa Mutharika has died, aged 78.
Bingu wa Mutharika suffered a cardiac arrest on Thursday and state media said he had been flown to South Africa.
Medical and government officials said on Friday that he was dead but there was no formal announcement, leading to fears of a power-struggle.
A government official said on state radio that there would be 10 days of national mourning. “We are sad to announce that the President of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika, has died,” Bright Msaka, secretary to the president and cabinet, said in a statement carried by state radio, AFP news agency reported.
“The Milpark Hospital in South Africa has also confirmed his death,” Bright Msaka said.
“There will be 10 days of national mourning, and the constitution will be adhered to in managing the transition.”
The delay in announcing Bingu wa Mutharika’s death had sparked speculation that the president’s allies might try to prevent the vice-president from taking over, as stipulated by the constitution.
Vice-President Joyce Banda fell out with Bingu wa Mutharika in 2010 over the succession and she was expelled from the ruling Democratic People’s Party (DPP).
The president’s brother, Foreign Minister Peter Mutharika, was lined up to be the DPP’s presidential candidate in the 2014 elections.
Both the UK and the US have called on Malawi to respect the constitution.
Bingu Mutharika governed Malawi for eight years, but was recently accused of mismanaging the economy and becoming increasingly autocratic. He fell out last year with former colonial ruler Britain, which withdrew its direct aid, accusing the Malawian government of mishandling the economy and of failing to uphold human rights.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an estimated 75% of the population living on less than $1 a day. The country has suffered shortages of fuel and foreign currency since the UK and other donors cancelled aid.