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Malawi Vice President Dr Saulos Chilima, 9 others confirmed dead in plane crash

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Malawi Vice President Dr Saulos Chilima and nine other passengers have been confirmed to have died in a Monday plane crash after their military jet crashed into a mountainous forest on Monday, June 10.

In a statement on Tuesday, June 11, Colleen Samba, the president’s secretary, confirmed the sad news.

“The aircraft, which was carrying the Vice President, the Right Honourable Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima, and nine others, was found this morning in the Chikangawa forest. Unfortunately, all on board have perished in the crash,” the statement read in part.

“The President has declared a national day of mourning and has ordered that all flags fly at half-mast from today until the day of the funeral.”

The plane carrying Dr Chilima is said to have failed to land at Mzuzu International Airport on Monday and a huge search operation was immediately launched to rescue the occupants but all was in vain.

The rescue operation was conducted immediately after the plane went off the radar, and Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera ordered all resources to be poured into locating the aircraft.

The jet, which also had former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri on board, left the southern African nation’s capital, Lilongwe, at 9.17 am local time and was due to arrive 45 minutes later.

But air traffic control warned the pilot not to attempt a landing and to turn around because of bad weather, President Lazarus Chakwera said.

Air traffic control then lost contact with the jet and it vanished from radar a short time later.

Frantic search crews combed through the area for hours before eventually tracking down the wreckage.

Chakwera said Dzimbiri, the ex-wife of former President Bakili Muluzi, was also one of the passengers.

The group was traveling to attend the funeral of a former government minister.

Three of those onboard were the military crew flying the plane, the president said.

Chilima, Malawi’s fallen stalwart

Dr Saulos Chilima had been vice president since 2020.

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

Chilima then joined Chakweras campaign as his running mate in a historic election rerun in 2020, when 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.

The vice president had been facing corruption charges over allegations that he received money in return for influencing the awarding of government contracts, but prosecutors dropped the charges last month.

That led to criticism that Chakwera’s administration was not taking a hard enough stance against graft.

Chilima was arrested in late 2022 and made several court appearances, but the trial had yet to start. He denied the allegations.

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