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Malawian Vice President Saulos Chilima, 9 confirmed dead after a plane crash

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Johnathan Paoli

Malawian Vice President Saulos Chilima and nine other people died when the small military plane they were traveling in crashed in bad weather in a mountainous region in the north of the country, the president said Tuesday. Chilima was 51.

President Lazarus Chakwera announced that the wreckage of the plane had been located after a search of more than a day in thick forests and hilly terrain near the northern city of Mzuzu.

The wreckage was found near a hill and the plane had been completely destroyed and everyone onboard was killed on impact.

Chakwera said: “I am deeply saddened and sorry to inform you all that it has turned out to be a terrible tragedy.

“Words cannot describe how heartbreaking this is and I can only imagine how much pain and anguish you all must be feeling at this time, as well as how much pain and anguish you all will be feeling in the coming days and weeks as we mourn this terrible loss,” Chakwera said.

On Monday Chakwera confirmed the incident when he addressed the nation and said the plane carrying the vice president was scheduled to land at Mzuzu International airport at 10 in the morning, following a visit to represent the government at the burial of former cabinet minister Ralph Kasamba who passed away last week Friday.

Chakwera said that search and rescue operations to find the missing plane were halted on Monday night, but would continue the next day, until the wreckage is found.

The president confirmed that countries including the United States, Britain, Norway and Israel have been contacted to assist in the rescue mission.

The other passengers in the aircraft 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.

The VP was said to be a potential candidate in the upcoming 2025 presidential election in the country and was recently charged with corruption.

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 Malawi Defence Force contracts.

However, the charges were dropped in May, following a notice filed by the public prosecutor to discontinue the case against the vice president.

Chilima is an economist and was a businessman before entering politics, holding key posts in multinational companies such as Unilever and Coca-Cola, and has been described as a “performer”, “workaholic” and “an achiever”.

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.

Some reports indicated, however, that tension had arisen between the two politicians leading to their parties contesting each other in the local elections.

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