Military plane carrying Malawi’s vice president goes missing

10 June 2024, 20:54

Malawi vice president Saulos Chilima and his wife Mary disembark from a plane
Malawi-Vice-President-Missing-Plane. Picture: PA

Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera has ordered a search operation.

A military plane carrying Malawi’s vice president and nine others has gone missing while on a short trip from the capital to a mountainous region in the country’s north and a search is under way, the president’s office said.

The plane carrying 51-year-old vice president Saulos Chilima left the southern African nation’s capital, Lilongwe, at 9.17am but disappeared from radar and failed to land as scheduled around 45 minutes later at Mzuzu International Airport, about 230 miles to the north.

“All efforts to make contact with the aircraft since it went off radar have failed thus far,” according to a statement from Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera’s office.

Mr Chakwera ordered a search operation and cancelled a trip to the Bahamas, his office said. The others onboard were not identified.

Saulos Chilima greets government officials at an airport
Saulos Chilima’s plane failed to make its scheduled landing (AP)

Mzuzu is Malawi’s third biggest city and the capital of the northern region. It lies in a hilly, forested area dominated by the Viphya mountain range, which has vast plantations of pine trees.

Malawi’s The Times media group reported that search teams involving soldiers, police officers and others were scouring one of those forested areas near Mzuzu for signs of the plane.

Mr Chakwera ordered national and local authorities to “conduct an immediate search and rescue operation to locate the whereabouts of the aircraft”, his office said. Mr Chakwera later announced on his official Facebook page that he would make a live speech to the nation.

Mr Chilima had been facing corruption charges over allegations that he received money in return for influencing the awarding of government contracts, but the charges were dropped by prosecutors last month.

Mr Chilima was arrested in late 2022 and made several court appearances, but the trial had not started. He denied the allegations.

He was a candidate in the 2019 Malawian presidential election and finished third. That vote was won by incumbent Peter Mutharika but was annulled by Malawi’s Constitutional Court because of irregularities. Mr Chakwera finished second in that election.

Mr Chilima then joined Mr Chakwera’s campaign as his running mate in the historic election rerun in 2020, when Mr Chakwera was elected president. It was the first time in Africa that an election result that was overturned by a court resulted in a defeat for the sitting president.

By Press Association

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