Malawi’s Vice President Dies in Plane Crash

By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News

LILONGWE (Worthy News) – Malawi’s vice president has died following a plane crash, the president of the African nation confirmed.

A team had been searching for Malawian Vice President Saulos Chilima’s missing plane and found the wreckage of the aircraft in a thick forest.

Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera made the announcement during a televised address.

The military plane carrying 51-year-old Chilima and nine others disappeared on Monday after its crew was reportedly told not to land in the northern city of Mzuzu due to bad weather.

“The search and rescue team have found the aircraft … completely destroyed with no survivors, as all passengers on board were killed on impact,” Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera told his nation.

“Words cannot describe how heartbreaking this is,” he added, describing the accident as a “terrible tragedy.”

Photographs showed army personnel standing on a foggy slope near debris bearing the Malawi Army Air Wing Dornier 228-202K aircraft registration number.

DEFENSE FORCE

Earlier Tuesday, the Malawi Defence Force announced that it had deployed drones and at least 200 soldiers to search for the plane at the Chikangawa Forest reserve, where radio signals of its whereabouts were last received.

The Force Commander Paul Valentino Phiri said bad weather conditions had delayed rescue operations.

Chilima‘s death in a plane disaster followed turbulent political times. He became vice-president in 2014 while managing director of the country’s leading telecommunications firm, Airtel Malawi, the first Malawian to head the organization.

But four years later, Chilima fell out with the then-president, accusing the government of not doing enough to fight corruption and protecting some people.

Under Malawian law, the president cannot fire the vice president, and Chilima refused to resign despite publicly challenging his government.

He later formed his political party, the United Transformation Movement (UTM), calling for radical change and reform in the country.

He ran for president in 2019 as the party’s candidate but came third. Malawi’s top court subsequently annulled the vote because of widespread reported irregularities.

HISTORIC RULING

It was Africa’s first time that a court overturned an election result, and then the sitting president was defeated in a re-run.

Chilima teamed up as the running mate of Lazarus Chakwera in the historic 2020 re-run. Chakwera, who emerged second in the discredited poll 2019, was resoundingly elected president, and Chilima became his vice-president.

But the vice president would soon face corruption allegations, which he had so much rallied against in the previous administration, observers noted. He was detained in 2022 on claims that he received money in return for influencing the awarding of government contracts – which he denied. The president fired other officials who were named alongside him.

As he could not sack the vice president, Chakwera promised to no longer delegate any official duties to Chilima while facing trial. But the charges were dropped last month with no reasons given. Critics said that the decision raised questions about the handling of corruption cases in Malawi.

Before his role as a political heavyweight in Malawi, Chilima held other senior roles in the corporate sector, including at firms Coca-Cola and Unilever.

He was an economist and held a PhD degree in knowledge management. While in government, he was also the minister responsible for economic planning and public sector reforms.

Chilima was born on 12 February 1973 in Ntcheu district in central Malawi. He is survived by his wife, Mary, and two children, Sean and Elizabeth.

The government said he would be remembered as a “performer,” “workaholic,” and “an achiever” at a time when the nation of 22 million people faces challenges such as rising urban poverty and endemic corruption.

Copyright 1999-2024 Worthy News. This article was originally published on Worthy News and was reproduced with permission.


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