Malawi’s VP among 10 killed in plane crash, president says

Malawi’s vice president, Saulos Chilima, was among 10 people killed when a small military plane crashed in a mountainous region in the north of the country, the president said Tuesday. Chilima was 51.

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. Chakwera said there were no survivors of the crash.

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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.

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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.

The search for the plane lasted more than 24 hours and provoked an international response. Chakwera had said the U.S., the U.K., Norway and Israel had offered assistance in the search operation and had provided “specialized technologies.”

The U.S. Embassy in Malawi said it also had assisted and had offered the use of a Department of Defense small C-12 plane.

However, officials with Chilima’s United Transformation Movement political party — a different party to the president — criticized the government response as slow and said there was no transponder on the plane, and that was concerning for an aircraft carrying a high-level delegation.

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Malawi is a country of around 21 million people and was ranked as the fourth poorest nation in the world by the World Bank in 2019.

Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa.

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: World