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Last Updated: Monday, 14 March, 2005, 15:16 GMT
Ghost story angers Malawi leader
Bingu wa Mutharika
Footsteps and other strange noises reportedly disturbed Mutharika
Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutharika has angrily denied reports that he has moved out of his 300-room official residence because it is haunted.

"I have never feared ghosts in my life," he told journalists on his return from a trip to Belgium.

His advisor on Christian affairs has also back-tracked on the story.

Reverend Malani Mtonga has denied telling several journalists that Christian priests had been called to exorcise the "evil spirits".

Earlier, another aide who did not want to be named, had told the BBC's Raphael Tenthani: "Sometimes the president feels rodents crawling all over his body but when lights are turned on he sees nothing."

Controversy has raged over the costly palace which housed parliament until Mr Mutharika's election last year.

'Obscene opulence'

Critics have accused him of going back on election promises to trim government spending in the impoverished state.

MPs are having to rent a venue for when parliament reconvenes at the end of March, after a gap of six months.

New State House
Mr Mutharika evicted parliament from New State House
At one stage, it appeared they might have to meet in a sports stadium and parliamentary committees have met in a motel.

The president justified his decision to evict parliament by arguing that the New State House had originally been built as a presidential residence.

Kamuzu Banda, Malawi's founding president, spent only 90 days in the palace which took 20 years to build and cost $100m.

With its 300 air-conditioned rooms, it is set in 555 hectares (1,332 acres) of land outside the capital.

When Bakili Muluzi, Mr Mutharika's predecessor, came to power in 1994 he refused to live there, condemning its "obscene opulence".

Instead, he used the Sanjika Palace in Malawi's commercial capital, Blantyre.

Profile: Bingu wa Mutharika
23 May 04 |  Africa

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