Page last updated at 13:34 GMT, Thursday, 21 January 2010

Malawi's President Mutharika to marry ex-minister

The president of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika, and his bride-to-be Calista Chapola-Chimbombo
The couple are planning a Valentine's Day party and May wedding

The president of Malawi, Bingu wa Mutharika, has announced he is to marry a former tourism minister.

His fiancee, Calista Chapola-Chimbombo, served in his first cabinet in 2004 and is a prominent member of the governing Democratic Progressive Party.

President Mutharika's first wife, Ethel, died from cancer 2007, and his future wife is also widowed.

The couple plan a traditional engagement ceremony on Valentine's Day before their 1 May wedding.

'Devout Catholics'

The BBC reporter in Malawi, Raphael Tenthani, says there had been intense speculation about the couple since they appeared beside each other during the wedding ceremony of President Mutharika's daughter in December.

But Ms Chapola-Chimombo had denied any affair, telling a local newspaper: "There is nothing between me and the president."

The president, 76, has four children. The incoming first lady, whose exact age has not been disclosed but is said to be in her 40s, has one son from her first marriage.

A statement from State House in the administrative capital, Lilongwe, said both were "devout Catholics" and the ceremony would be blessed in a Catholic church.

In his spare time Mr Mutharika dabbles in both non-fiction and fiction writing. He has published a number of books on business and says he has two scripts for possible feature films.

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