President Bingu wa Mutharika of Malawi has died, ne of the doctors who treated Mr Mutharika, 78, said the president was "clinically dead" on Thursday after suffering a cardiac arrest. State media has only reported that he has been flown to South Africa for medical treatment.
If confirmed, his death would spark a constitutional crisis, analysts say.
According to the constitution, the vice-president takes over if the head of state is incapacitated or dies in office.
But Vice-President Joyce Banda and Mr Mutharika fell out after a row over the succession in 2010, and she was expelled from the ruling Democratic People's Party (DPP).
Mr Mutharika's brother, Foreign Minister Peter Mutharika, was chosen instead of Ms Banda to be the DPP's presidential candidate in the 2014 elections.
He has been standing in for the president when needed during official occasions. Ms Banda recently told the BBC she had not spoken to Bingu wa Mutharika for more than a year.The BBC's Raphael Tenthani in the main city, Blantyre, says ministers met all night to discuss the situation.
The doctors and ministers say that Mr Mutharika's body was taken to South Africa while a decision is taken about what to do next.
Government sources have told the BBC that efforts to resuscitate President Mutharika had failed and that an official announcement is being prepared.
'The laws are clear' Former President Bakili Muluzi - a bitter rival to Mr Mutharika - has called on the authorities to make an announcement.
"It's important that the government announces the condition of the president as soon as possible so that the nation is informed," he told journalists.
I am calling for a constitutional order, for continued peace and order. The laws of Malawi are very clear that the vice-president takes over when the president can no longer govern." Mr Mutharika, a former World Bank economist, came to power in a 2004 election, after being backed by outgoing President Muluzi. Soon afterwards, Mr Mutharika left his United Democratic Front (UDF) to form the DPP, after accusing Mr Muluzi and other UDF leaders of opposing his campaign against corruption.
Since being re-elected with a large majority in 2009, critics allege he has demonstrated an increasingly authoritarian streak.
The president has been under mounting pressure to resign, amid accusations of nepotism and economic mismanagement.
The criticism has led to a souring in relations with major foreign aid donors, especially the United Kingdom.
Last year, Mr Mutharika expelled the UK High Commissioner, Fergus Cochrane-Dyet, after a leaked embassy cable quoted the diplomat as saying that the president could not tolerate criticism.
The Malawian leader said he could not accept "insults" just because the UK was his country's largest aid donor.
In response, the UK expelled the Malawian envoy to London and cut direct aid.
Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, with an estimated 75% of the population living on less than $1 (60p) a day.
The country has suffered shortages of fuel and foreign currency since the UK and other donors cancelled aid.
THE SHORT HISTORY OF MR. MUTHARIKA
Bingu wa Mutharika was born Ryson Webster Thom on 24 February 1934 in Mutharika's parents, Ryson Thom Mutharika and Eleni Thom Mutharika, were both members of the Church of Scotland Mission which later became CCAP. His father was a teacher for 37 years.
Upon completing his primary education in Blantyre, Mutharika obtained a Grade A Overseas School Leaving Certificate at Dedza Secondary School in 1956. In 1964, he was one of the 32 Malawians selected by Hastings Kamuzu Banda (President of Malawi 1961-1994) to travel to India on an Indira Gandhi scholarship for 'fast track' diplomas. The BBC reports that he went to India to "escape then President Hastings Banda's crackdown on political opponents". At some point during the 1960s, he also changed his name, to Bingu wa Mutharika.In India, Mutharika earned his Bachelor's degree in Economics. Subsequently, he attended the Delhi School of Economics graduating with a M.A. degree in Economics. He later obtained a Ph.D. degree in Development Economics from Pacific Western University of Los Angeles, California (USA). Mutharika also completed short courses on Business Management, Financial Analysis, Trade Promotion, Political Leadership, regional Economic Co-operation and Human Relations.
Mutharika served in the Malawi civil service. He has served as Administrative Officer in the Government of Malawi and Zambia. He was offered the Deputy Governorship of the reserve Bank of Malawi and appointed Minister of Economic Planning and Development in 2002.
He worked at the World Bank as a Loans Officer and at the United Nations Economic Commission of Africa, as Director of Trade and Development Finance and as Secretary General of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa COMESA, covering 22 Member States.
News fro BBC and other World media. and edited by Steven mruma.