04/07/2012 12:58 EDT | Updated 06/07/2012 05:12 EDT

Vice-President Joyce Banda sworn in as Malawi's leader

BLANTYRE, Malawi - Malawi’s Vice-President Joyce Banda has been sworn in as president following her predecessor's sudden death in office.

Saturday's brief ceremony in Lilongwe, this impoverished southern African country's capital, ended more than a day of uncertainty.

Doctors had disclosed that 78-year-old President Bingu wa Mutharika had died of a heart attack Thursday, but the government insisted until Saturday morning that he was only ill.

The delay in announcing Mutharika’s death and allowing Banda to step in led to speculation politicians were squabbling over succession.

Banda had held onto her post of vice-president despite falling out with Mutharika, and the constitution dictated the vice-president should take over if the president died.

Banda is Malawi’s first woman president, and one of few women to have reached the top office in Africa.