Malawi vice-president and nine others killed in plane crash

Malawi vice-president and nine others killed in plane crash

Malawi’s vice-president, Saulos Chilima, and nine other people have been killed in a plane crash, the country’s president, Lazarus Chakwera, said in a live televised address.

The wreckage of the military plane carrying Chilima and the former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri to a funeral of an ex-minister on Monday was found on a hillside in the Chikangawa forest, a mountainous area in the north of the country.

Air traffic controllers had told the plane not to attempt a landing at an airport in the northern city of Mzuzu owing to bad weather and to turn back to the capital, Lilongwe. Contact was then lost and the plane disappeared from the radar. Seven passengers and three crew members were onboard.

“Words cannot describe how heartbreaking this is and I can only imagine how much pain and anguish you may all must be having at this point in time,” Chakwera said in his address.

He described Chilima as “a good man, a devoted father and husband, a patriotic citizen who served his country with distinction, and a formidable vice-president.

“I consider it one of my greatest honours to be deputised by him in the last years,” Chakwera said.

Chilima had been vice-president since 2014, serving his first term until 2019 under President Peter Mutharika. He previously led the mobile network Airtel Malawi, and had worked at Unilever, Coca-Cola and Carlsberg. He had a wife and two children, according to his profile on the government’s website.

Chilima challenged Mutharika in the 2019 presidential election, coming third behind Mutharika and Chakwera in a vote annulled by the country’s top court. The vote was re-run in 2020, with Chilima joining the eventual victor, Chakwera, as his running mate.

Prosecutors dropped corruption charges against Chilima last month, after alleging he had influenced the award of defence and police contracts in return for payment.

The crashed aircraft was a Dornier 228-type twin propeller plane delivered to Malawi’s military in 1988, according to the plane’s tail number quoted by the president and the ch-aviation website, which tracks aircraft information.

The US embassy had offered the use of an aircraft in the search for the plane, which involved about 600 troops, police and forest rangers. Chakwera said on Monday that Israel, Norway and the UK had also offered help.

The Associated Press contributed to this report