Malawi vice president confirmed dead as plane found destroyed after crash

11 June 2024, 14:21 | Updated: 11 June 2024, 14:22

The Malawi Defence Force aircraft "went off the radar" on Monday morning
The Malawi Defence Force aircraft "went off the radar" on Monday morning. Picture: Getty

By Will Conroy

The plane carrying Malawi's vice-president has been found destroyed with no survivors, President Lazarus Chakwera has said.

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Saulos Chilima and nine others were flying on the Malawi Defence Force aircraft that "went off the radar" on Monday morning after leaving the capital, Lilongwe.

The plane was supposed to land at Mzuzu International Airport, in the country’s north, just after 10:00 am local time but was flying in bad weather.

Efforts to find the plane were made by soldiers who searched Chikangawa Forest during the night and early morning.

President Chakwera said the Malawi Defence Force commander informed him that the search and rescue operation had been completed and the plane was found, in a news briefing on Tuesday.

President Chakwera said he was "deeply saddened and sorry" to confirm that the rescue team found the aircraft completely destroyed.

President Lazarus Chakwera ordered a search and rescue operation
President Lazarus Chakwera ordered a search and rescue operation. Picture: Getty

The vice-president and president represented different political parties but they formed an alliance during the 2020 elections.

President Chakwera paid tribute to Dr Chilima, describing him as "a good man", "devoted father" and "formidable VP".

"I consider it one of the great honours of my life to have had him as a deputy and as a counsellor,” he added.

He said that the military is transporting the remains of Dr Chilima and the other victims to Lilongwe and that funeral arrangements will be announced.

Dr Chilima had been vice-president of Malawi since 2014 and was a popular figure in the country, particularly among the younger generations, according to the AFP news agency.

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The president had ordered the search and rescue operation on Monday after there were failed efforts to contact the aircraft.

He had cancelled his flight to the Bahamas scheduled for Monday evening after being told of the incident by the Defence Force commander.

Local media reported that Dr Chilima was travelling to represent the government at the funeral of former cabinet member Ralph Kasambara.

Mr Kunkuyu said: "The airport he was to land, which is in the northern part of Mzuzu, was the closest to where the funeral was taking place.”

Dr Chilima was arrested and charged after Malawi’s corruption watchdog alleged that he accepted money in exchange for awarding government contracts in 2022 but the court dropped the charges last month, with no reason given.

His lawyer Khumbo Soko said in May: “We do not know the reasons for the discontinuance. Suffice to say only parliament has the mandate to know".

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