Aviation Safety

Malawi Vice President's Plane Goes Missing in Northern Region

Main image to the post Malawi Vice President's Plane Goes Missing in Northern Region

A military plane carrying Malawi's vice-president and nine others has gone missing while on a short trip from the capital to a mountainous region in the country's north.

The plane carrying 51-year-old vice-president Saulos Chilima left the southern African nation's capital, Lilongwe, at 9.17 am Monday local time but disappeared from radar and failed to land as scheduled around 45 minutes later at Mzuzu International Airport, about 370 kilometres to the north.

Malawian President Lazarus Chakwera said he had been informed the pilot was unable to land due to poor weather, and had been advised to return to Lilongwe before communication was lost with the plane.

The plane was flying to the funeral of Ralph Kasambara, a former minister of justice and attorney general, Mr Chakwera told media.

Malawi's The Times media group reported that search teams involving soldiers, police officers and others were scouring one of those forested areas near Mzuzu for signs of the plane.

Mr Chakwera said search teams were working within a 10km radius.

"I have given strict orders that the operation should continue until the plane is found," he said.

Mr Chakwera added the US, UK, Norwegian and Israeli governments had reached out to offer support, alongside Malawi's neighbouring countries.

This missing helicopter follows the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi who was killed in a helicopter crash last month.

Mr Chilima had been facing corruption charges over allegations he received money in return for influencing the awarding of government contracts, but those charges were surprisingly dropped by prosecutors last month.

This has led to criticism that Mr Chakwera's administration was not taking a hard enough stance against graft.

Mr Chilima was arrested in late 2022 and made several court appearances, but the trial had not started.

The vice-president also ran as 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.

President Chakwera finished second in that election.

Mr Chilima then joined Mr Chakwera's campaign as his running mate in an historic election re-run 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.

Malawi is a landlocked country in south-eastern Africa, bordered by Tanzania to the north, Lake Malawi to the east, Mozambique to the east and south, and Zambia to the west.

Lake Nyasa, some 580 km long, is the country's most prominent physical feature and contains more fish species than any other lake on earth, according to the CIA's World Factbook.

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.

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May 21, 2023 | 05:09