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Malawian Vice-President Saulos Chilima, 9 others killed in plane crash

Malawian Vice-President Saulos Chilima, 9 others killed in plane crash
Malawi’s Vice-President, Saulos Chilima. (Photo: Godfrey M Chikumbi / Facebook)

Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera announced on Tuesday that Vice-President Saulos Chilima and all the nine others on board a military aircraft had died when it crashed into a hill in a forest near the northern town of Mzuzu on Monday morning.

‘The search-and-rescue team has found the aircraft near a hill in the  Chikangawa forest and they have found it completely destroyed with no survivors as all passengers on board were killed on impact,” Chakwera said in a public address just after noon. 

Chakwera said that despite the track record of the aircraft and the experience of the crew, “something terrible went wrong with that aircraft on its flight back to Lilongwe, sending it crashing down and killing everyone on board”.

On Monday night Chakwera had announced that the aircraft had been flying from the capital Lilongwe to Mzuzu in the north but had been turned back before landing at Mzuzu because of poor visibility in bad weather.

It had then disappeared from radar screens. A search party from the Malawi Defence Force searched the forest through the night but only found the wreckage on Tuesday morning. 


The wreckage of the plane crash in which Malawian Vice-President Saulos Chilima and nine others were killed. (Photo: Supplied)

“Dr Saulos Chiliman was a good man, a devoted father and husband, a patriotic citizen who served his country with distinction and a formidable vice-president. I considered it one of the greatest honours of my life to have had him as my deputy and counsellor for the past four years,” Chakwera said. 

“And this passing is a terrible loss to his wife, Mary, his family, his friends, his colleagues in the cabinet and to all of us as a nation that found his leadership and courage a source of inspiration.

“And I know that even the others who were on that flight were men and women of honour who served their country with distinction and whose families are left with broken hearts today.”

In his Monday address on the public broadcaster Chakwera named the other nine people on board. They included former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri, the ex-wife of former president Bakili Muluzi, as well as five aides to Chilima and three air crew.

He said that at 7.05am on Monday, MDF Aircraft Number MAF TO3 had left Mzuzu Airfield and landed at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe at 7.48am to fly Chilima and the other passengers back to Mzuzu to attend the funeral of the former attorney-general and minister of justice, Ralph Kasambara. 

The aircraft had departed Lilongwe’s Kamuzu International Airport at 9.17am.


The wreckage of the plane. (Photo: Supplied)

“However, upon arrival in Mzuzu, the pilot was unable to land the plane due to poor visibility occasioned by bad weather and aviation authorities advised the aircraft to return to Lilongwe, but the authorities soon lost contact with the aircraft.”

Chakwera’s office announced earlier in the day that he cancelled a scheduled departure for the Bahamas to attend a trade and investment conference.


Chilima (51) was an economist and was a businessman before entering politics, holding key posts in multinational companies such as Unilever and Coca-Cola. He is described on the government’s website as a “performer”, “workaholic” and “an achiever”, with a PhD degree in knowledge management.

Though regarded as an achiever, Chilima had also been controversial. In November 2022, he was arrested and charged on allegations that he had accepted a $280,000 bribe from British businessman Zuneth Sattar in exchange for helping his firm secure MDF contracts.

Last month, the court dropped the charges – on Chakwera’s orders, according to Africa Confidential. The court gave no reasons for its decision.

Sattar had been implicated in other allegations of corrupting Malawian officials. 

Chakwera and Chilima won elections in 2020 in an alliance between their two parties after the courts had annulled the victory of incumbent president Peter Mutharika in 2019, declaring his election had been rigged. Chakwera and Chilima vowed to stamp out endemic corruption in the country, but have failed to do so and are facing rising opposition. 

Tension had also arisen between the two politicians leading to their two parties contesting each other in some local elections. DM


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