No breakthrough in search for missing Malawi plane Vice Prez – India TV
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No breakthrough in search for missing Malawi plane Vice Prez – India TV

Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima (left) greets government officials after returning from South K
Image source: AP Vice President of Malawi Saulos Chilima (left) greets government officials after returning from South Korea in Lillongwe.

Soldiers continue to search mountain forests near a town in northern Malawi after a military plane carrying the country’s vice president and former first lady went missing in the area on Monday, President Lazarus Chakwera said. The plane carrying Vice President Saulos Chilima, 51, former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri and eight others took off from the capital of the South African nation of Lilongwe at 9:17 a.m. and was scheduled to land 45 minutes later at Mzuzu International Airport about 370 kilometers (230 miles) to the north.

However, air traffic control ordered him not to attempt to land and to turn back due to bad weather and poor visibility, Chakwera said in a speech broadcast live on state television MBC. He added that air traffic control lost contact with the plane, which disappeared from radar shortly afterwards.

“I know this is a heartbreaking situation. I know we are all scared and concerned. I am also concerned,” Chakwera said. “But I want to assure you that I will spare no expense to find this plane. I’m clinging to every fiber of hope that we will find survivors.”

Hilly region

Mzuzu is Malawi’s third largest city and the capital of the northern region. It is situated in a hilly, forested area dominated by the Viphya mountain range, which is home to extensive pine plantations. The president promised the search would continue throughout the night and said authorities used telecommunications towers to pinpoint the plane’s last known position within a 10-kilometer (6-mile) radius at one of the plantations. He added that the area was the subject of a Malawi Defense Force search and rescue operation. “I have given strict instructions for the operation to continue until the plane is found,” Chakwera said.

Chakwera said the United States, Britain, Norway and Israel offered assistance in the search operation and provided “specialized technology” that the president hoped would help find the plane more quickly.

Chakwera said one of the passengers was also Dzimbiri, former wife of former president Bakili Muluzi. The group was traveling to attend the funeral of a former government minister. The president said the three people on board were the military crew piloting the plane.

Who is Saulos Chilima?

Chakwera asked Malawians to pray for everyone on board and their families. Chilima has been vice president since 2020. He was a candidate in the 2019 Malawi presidential election and finished third. This vote was won by incumbent Peter Mutharika, but was invalidated by the Malawi Constitutional Court due to irregularities. Chakwera finished second in that election.

Chilima then joined Chakwera’s campaign as his running mate in the historic rerun of the 2020 elections when Chakwera was elected president. For the first time in Africa, an election result invalidated by a court resulted in the defeat of a sitting president.

The vice president faced corruption charges over allegations he received money in exchange for influencing the awarding of government contracts, but prosecutors dropped the charges last month. This led to criticism that the Chakwera administration had not taken a strong enough stance against graft. Chilima was arrested in late 2022 and has made several court appearances, but the trial has not yet started. He denied the allegations.

(With the participation of the agency)

Read also: Plane carrying Vice President of Malawi and nine other people missing: report