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Chilima’s Body; Others Ferried to Lilongwe

Chilima’s Body; Others Ferried to Lilongwe

There was a somber mood at Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe, the capital city of Malawi, as the bodies of Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima and eight others arrived from Mzimba where an aircraft carrying them crashed on Monday.

President Lazarus Chakwera led Malawians from all walks of life to welcome the bodies.

Chilima’s wife, Mary, was there in the company of First Lady Monica Chakwera. They all donned black attire, symbolizing the tragedy that has befallen the nation.

A religious ritual led by the Catholic Church was briefly held.

The ambulances carrying the bodies lined up the tarmac of the apron, engulfed by multitudes of people.

The last to be taken out of the Zambia Airforce chopper was the body of Chilima, strapped in a body bag.

Government spokesperson Moses Kunkuyu said the body of Chilima would temporarily be housed at a funeral house [Abwezi] in the capital city in preparation for a state funeral following an agreement with the family.

“As for the others, they’ll also be ferried to another funeral house [Sunset]. Some of them will have to be buried tomorrow [Wednesday] in line with the rituals of the Islamic faith,” he said, “This is a state funeral and we want to treat all the dead with the honor they deserve.”

The government has declared 21 days of mourning in honour of the vice-president and the eight others. They include two crew members, security personnel and aides to the vice president.

Another notable figure who died in the accident is Shanil Dzimbiri, former first lady and former wife to ex-President Bakili Muluzi. She was an aide to Second Lady Mary.

The plane carrying the nine was recovered at around midday on Tuesday after it went missing under bad weather in the vast man-made Chikangawa Forest on Monday. It was located in a part of the forest called Nthungwa.

They were enroute back to Lilongwe after the military aircraft operated by the Malawi Defence Force failed to land at Mzuzu Airport from where Chilima was expected to travel by road to attend the burial of a prominent lawyer, Raphael Kasambara, in the neighboring Nkhata Bay district.

The actual cause of the accident has not been established.

Earlier, officials of Chilima’s UTM party expressed reservations with how government emergency teams responded to the accident, implying there was a delayed response.

According to secretary general Patricia Kaliati the party had instituted a separate search operation, but said they were collaborating with the state agencies.

Researcher and governance expert Dr. Henry Chingaipe concurred with Kaliati that there are many questions to be answered.

“Why was the plane allowed to fly when the weather was bad; how did we respond to the accident…looking at the wreckage of the plane one would say may be if emergency teams had arrived on time, one or two lives would have been saved,” he said, while observing Chakwera’s remarks that the search was prompt.

In an earlier national briefing President Chakwera said the search and rescue operation had started almost immediately after the plane went off the radar at around 10 a.m. on Monday, not four hours later as widely suggested by critics.

“The people who perished in this tragic and terrible accident could have been any one of us. And we feel helpless because a day like today, reminds us that one day and any day, death will in fact come for each one of us and we will be powerless to stop it.

“Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima was a good man. A devoted father and husband. A patriotic citizen, who served his country with distinction. I consider it one of the greatest honors in my life, to have worked with him in the past four years,” he said.

Chalima, 51, was an economist by profession.

Fondly known as SKS, he first served as vice-president of the Republic of Malawi from 2014 to 2019 under the presidency of Peter Mutharika and from 2020 until his death on June 10, 2024.

Before joining politics, he held key top positions in crucial multi-national companies including Unilever, Coca-Cola and Airtel Malawi.

He was born February 12, 1973 in his home district Ntcheu in central Malawi.

He is survived by his wife, Mary, and two children.

Chilima founded his UTM party [formerly United Transformation Movement] in 2018 upon leaving Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party after the two had fallen out.

In 2020, his party supported the candidacy of Chakwera with him as the running-mate following a court-sanctioned election after the previous one, won by Mutharika, was declared void by a constitutional court.

The pair eventually won the election, leading to Chilima’s second term as vice-president of the Republic of Malawi.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16/06/2024

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