Malawi’s vice president, 9 others die in plane crash

NEW DELHI: Malawi mourns the loss of its Vice President Saulos Chilima and nine others following a fatal plane crash, confirmed by President Lazarus Chakwera on Tuesday.
The wreckage of the military aircraft transporting Vice President Chilima was discovered in a rugged mountainous area in the northern region of the country after an extensive search spanning more than a day.Regrettably, there were no survivors, President Chakwera announced in a somber live address broadcast on state television.
The tragic incident unfolded as the aircraft, carrying Vice President Chilima and former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri, among others, vanished from radar during its scheduled 45-minute flight from the capital city, Lilongwe, to Mzuzu in the north.
Air traffic controllers redirected the plane away from Mzuzu’s airport due to adverse weather conditions and poor visibility, instructing it to return to Lilongwe. However, contact with the aircraft was abruptly lost thereafter, leaving authorities grappling with the unfolding crisis.
The aircraft, identified as a small, propeller-driven plane operated by the Malawian armed forces, was carrying seven passengers and three military crew members, according to President Chakwera. The search and rescue operation, spanning a vast forest plantation in the Viphya Mountains near Mzuzu, involved approximately 600 personnel, comprising soldiers, police officers, forest rangers, and volunteers from organizations like the Malawi Red Cross.
General Valentino Phiri, commander of the Malawian armed forces, described the challenging terrain and dense forest cover as formidable obstacles impeding search efforts. Despite the daunting conditions, authorities remained resolute in their commitment to locating the wreckage and any possible survivors.
President Chakwera expressed gratitude for the international support extended by the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway, and Israel, who offered specialized technologies to aid in the search operation. Assistance from neighboring Zambia and Tanzania was also enlisted, with additional helicopters and drones dispatched to bolster search efforts.
Chilima was serving his second term as vice president. He was also in the role from 2014-2019 under former President Peter Mutharika. He was a candidate in the 2019 Malawian presidential election and finished third, behind the incumbent, Mutharika, and Chakwera. The vote was later annulled by Malawi’s Constitutional Court because of irregularities.
Chilima then joined Chakwera’s campaign as his running mate in an 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.
Chilima had previously been facing corruption charges over allegations that he received money in return for influencing the awarding of government procurement contracts for the Malawi armed forces and the police, but prosecutors dropped the charges last month. He had denied the allegations, but the case led to criticism that Chakwera’s administration was not taking a hard enough stance against graft.
(With inputs from agencies)
Source : Times of India