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11 June 2024

Malawi’s vice president and nine others killed in plane crash

11 June 2024

Malawi’s vice president and nine others have been killed in a plane crash, the country’s president said.

President Lazarus Chakwera announced in a live address on state television 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.

He said the wreckage was found near a hill and the plane had been “completely destroyed” and everyone onboard was killed on impact.

There were also seven passengers and three military crew members onboard.

Mr Chakwera said he had been informed by the head of Malawi’s armed forces that the plane had been found and “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,” Mr Chakwera said.

He said Mr Chilima was “a good man, a devoted father and husband, a patriotic citizen who served his country with distinction, and a formidable vice president”.

Mr Chakwera asked everyone to observe a moment’s silence and stood with his head bowed at the podium where he was making his address.

The plane carrying 51-year-old Mr Chilima, former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri and eight others left the southern African nation’s capital, Lilongwe, at 9.17am on Monday and had been expected to land 45 minutes later at Mzuzu International Airport, about 230 miles to the north.

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

But air traffic control told it to not attempt a landing and to turn around because of bad weather and poor visibility.

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

Air traffic control lost contact with the aircraft and it disappeared from radar a short time later.

Mzuzu is Malawi’s third biggest city and the capital of the northern region.

It lies in a hilly, forested area dominated by the Viphya mountain range, which has vast plantations of pine trees.

Mr Chilima had been vice president since 2020.

He was a candidate in the 2019 Malawian presidential election and finished third.

That vote was won by incumbent Peter Mutharika but was annulled by Malawi’s Constitutional Court because of irregularities.

Mr Chakwera finished second in that election.

Mr Chilima then joined Chakwera’s campaign as his running mate in an historic election rerun in 2020, when Mr 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 Mr Chakwera’s administration was not taking a hard enough stance.

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

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