The Tragic Fall of a Rising Star: Malawi’s Vice President Chilima Dies in Plane Crash


Malawi’s Vice President Chilima dies in a plane crash, leaving a legacy of youthful charisma, reformist zeal, and controversy in the Malawi’s political landscape.

In a twist of fate that seems plucked from the pages of a thriller, Malawi’s Vice President Saulos Chilima and nine others have met a tragic end after their aircraft disappeared from radar and later crashed in northern Malawi. President Lazarus Chakwera confirmed the devastating news, painting a sorrowful picture of a nation mourning a leader who had once embodied hope and progress.

Chilima, aged 51, was en route to Mzuzu International Airport when the military aircraft he was aboard vanished from radar, failing to land and sparking a desperate search. The wreckage was found in the Chikangawa Forest, with President Chakwera poignantly describing the aircraft as “completely destroyed.” This tragic incident has left the nation grappling with the loss of a “good man, a devoted father and husband, and a patriotic citizen” .

Despite the aircraft’s reliable track record and experienced crew, something went horribly wrong during its flight back to Lilongwe. Air traffic control had advised the plane against landing due to poor visibility and recommended returning to the capital, but shortly after, contact was lost . The Malawi Defence Force, deploying drones and soldiers, faced delays due to bad weather, further compounding the tragedy .

A Legacy of Charisma and Controversy

Chilima’s journey from the corporate sector to the highest echelons of Malawian politics was marked by his magnetic appeal, particularly among the youth. Known for his fashionable demeanor and engaging public persona, Chilima often exercised in public, performed push-ups at campaign events, and participated in golf tournaments, embodying a youthful and energetic leadership style  . Journalist Bayana Chunga aptly noted, “In many ways, he was the symbol of young people participating in the politics and governance of Malawi” .

However, Chilima’s career was not without controversy. Initially hailed as a “reliable and productive” partner by former President Peter Mutharika, he later fell out with the administration, accusing it of failing to combat corruption. This led to his formation of the UTM party, advocating for radical change and reform . Despite his fervent anti-corruption stance, Chilima himself faced allegations of corruption, a development that deeply disappointed his supporters  .

An Unfinished Journey

Before his foray into politics, Chilima made significant strides in the corporate world, notably as the managing director of Airtel Malawi, becoming the first Malawian to lead the telecommunications giant. His academic achievements included a PhD in knowledge management, reflecting his intellectual rigor and commitment to public service .

Chilima’s political legacy is complex. He was a driving force behind the historic annulment of the 2019 presidential election results due to widespread irregularities, a landmark moment in African politics. His collaboration with President Chakwera in the subsequent 2020 elections marked a new chapter in Malawian governance, although his tenure was later marred by corruption charges, from which he was only recently cleared  .

A Nation Mourns

As Malawi observes a 21-day national mourning period, the nation’s collective grief is palpable. The remains of Chilima and the other victims have been brought to the capital, where they were received with solemn respect. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres expressed his condolences, standing in solidarity with the people of Malawi during this dark time  .

Felix Njawala, spokesperson for the UTM party, encapsulated the sentiments of many: “He inspired many of us – we lived the dream he had” . Chilima’s untimely death leaves a void in Malawi’s political landscape, yet his legacy of youthful energy, reformist zeal, and unyielding dedication to public service will endure.


Vice President Saulos Chilima’s life and career were a testament to his dynamic and often contentious role in Malawi’s political arena. His tragic death underscores the fragile nature of life and the indelible impact one individual can have on a nation’s trajectory. As Malawi mourns, the memory of Chilima’s contributions and the dreams he inspired will continue to resonate, challenging future leaders to strive for integrity, progress, and the betterment of their country.


Leave a Reply