Malawi in mourning following the death of vice-president Saulos Chilima

The people of Malawi are in mourning following the death of the country’s vice-president, Saulos Chilima.

He, together with nine others, died in a plane crash in a forest in the north of the country where they were due to attend a funeral.

“In every nation we always have leaders who are also like parents. Not to one person, not to two, but to many communities, so it is sad,” said Lilongwe resident, Rose Abigail Mwinjilo.

Another resident in the capital, Godrick Masina, said it was unfortunate as Chilima had “done a lot of things” for Malawi.

“Being a vice-president, he assisted a lot of people, even the current government. I am so sure without Chilima, we could have ended [up] in another election,” he said.

Originally a businessman, Chilima was vice-president for 10 years, initially under former President Peter Mutharika, and then under incumbent President Lazarus Chakwera.

After falling out with Mutharika, Chilima formed his own political party, the United Transformation Movement (UTM) in 2018, calling for radical change and reform in the country.

He ran for president the following year as the party’s candidate and came third in the polls which were won by Mutharika.

However, the election was subsequently annulled by Malawi’s top court because of widespread irregularities.

In the 2020 re-run, Chilima stood as Chakwera’s running mate, despite being from different political parties, and together defeated Mutharika.

On Tuesday, UTM officials criticized the government saying its response when the plane went missing had been slow.

They also questioned why there appeared to have been no transponder on the aircraft.

“As a party, we are looking forward to seeing where the transponder is and why is [it] that we are failing to trace it,” said the party’s secretary general, Patricia Kaliati.

In making the announcement of Chilima’s death on Tuesday, the president described him as a “good man” and a “patriotic citizen”, but there had been reports recently of friction between the two men.

Chilima said that, as part of their alliance, Chakwera had agreed to step down after his first term and allow him to run for president in next year’s election.

However, last month Chakwera announced that he would run for re-election in the national polls due to take place in September 2025.