Vice President of Malawi, Saulos Chilima, died in a plane crash

Malawi’s vice president and nine others died when their plane crashed in bad weather, the country’s president said Tuesday.

The plane carrying Vice President Saulos Chilima went missing on Monday morning, prompting a massive search operation in the Southeast African country.

In his address to the nation, President Lazarus Chakwera said rescue workers had discovered plane debris in the jungle in the north of the country and there were no survivors.

“No words can describe this heartache,” Mr. Chakwera said from government headquarters as a member of Mr. Chilima’s political party wept loudly.

The President described Mr. Chilima, 51, as a “good man, a devoted father and husband and a patriotic citizen who served the country with distinction.”

Mr. Chilima was predicted to run for president in the 2025 election.

According to Mr. Chakwera, the Malawi military plane successfully completed its journey just a few hours before the fateful flight.

“Despite the track record of the aircraft and the experience of the crew, something terrible happened to that aircraft,” Mr Chakwera said.

The plane took off at 9:17 a.m. Monday from Malawi’s capital Lilongwe. The flight – whose other passengers included Shanil Dzimbiri, former first lady of Malawi; and three members of the Malawi military — went to Mzuzu, less than an hour away, according to the government.

Mr. Chakwera said in a televised address late Monday that the plane could not land because of poor visibility due to bad weather. The pilot was asked to turn back, but within just a few minutes, the plane disappeared from radar.

Malawian authorities conducted an extensive overnight search of the Chikangawa Forest, an uninhabited reserve covering about 440 square miles.

On Tuesday morning, General Paul Phiri of the Malawi Defense Force said in a press conference that nearly 200 soldiers were involved in the search, which was hampered by thick fog. Police officers, forest rangers and civil aviation personnel were also involved in the effort, he added.

Malawi authorities also turned to other countries for support. The US Embassy in Lilongwe said it had loaned a plane to assist in the search, while Mr Chakwera said he had asked neighboring countries along with Britain, Israel and Norway for technological support. On Tuesday morning, the Malawi Red Cross also joined the search effort.

Appearing distraught people gathered Tuesday afternoon at the headquarters of his political party, the United Transition Movement, in Lilongwe.

Mr. Chilima died “before doing what most of us thought he could do, which was revive this economy,” Newton Kambala, a party member and former energy minister, told news agencies. local.

Mr. Chilima is holding the position of Vice President of Malawi for the second time. He entered Malawian politics a decade ago, giving up his role as head of one of the country’s largest telecommunications companies to become the running mate of Peter Mutharika, who was elected president in 2014.

The two had a falling out in 2019, with Mr Chilima accusing Mr Mutharika of corruption. Mr. Chilima went on to found his own political party, the United Transition Movement.

On Tuesday, Mr. Mutharika said in a statement that he was “deeply saddened to learn of the plane crash that claimed the precious life” of his former companion.

Once political rivals, Mr. Chakwera and Mr. Chilima formed an alliance in 2019 after Mr. Mutharika won an election marred by irregularities. Mr. Chakwera and Mr. Chilima challenged the result, and after the judicial panel ruled in their favor, their joint ticket won the 2020 replacement election.

At the end of 2022, Mr. Chilima was arrested by the Malawi Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly receiving kickbacks from a businessman in exchange for a government contract. He denies any wrongdoing.

Malawi authorities dropped the case and withdrew all charges against Mr. Chilima last month, but the scandal has tarnished his image as a politician who vowed to clean up corruption.

Mr. Chilima was born in the central Ntcheu district of Malawi. According to his official profile, he studied economics at the University of Malawi and earned a doctorate in knowledge management from the University of Bolton in England. He leaves behind his wife, Mary Chilima, and their two children.


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