Aircraft carrying Malawi vice president goes missing with nine others onboard

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A military plane carrying Malawi’s vice-president and nine others has gone missing.

The Malawian Defence Force aircraft “went off radar” after it left Malwai capital Lilongwe on Monday morning, a statement from the office of the country’s president said.

“All efforts by aviation authorities to make contact with the Aircraft since it went off the radar have failed thus far,” Malawi’s Office of the President and Cabinet said.

A search and rescue operation was launched after aviation experts were unable to locate the plane.

Malawi vice president Saulos Klaus Chilima, 51, and nine other unnamed people were onboard.

The statement from the president’s office said the plane took off at around 9:17am local time and failed to meet its scheduled landing at Mzuzu International Airport at 10:02am.

Lazarus Chakwera, Malawi president, has been informed of the incident has cancelled his scheduled trip to the Bahamas, the statement said.

No further information was available.

Last month corruption charges against Dr Chilima were dropped after the state prosecutor filed a notice for the case to be thrown out.

He was arrested in November 2022 over claims that he accepted money in exchange for government contracts.

Dr Chilima denied the charges, which the prosecutor dropped without explanation.

The charges related to allegations that Dr Chilima received money to influence the awarding of contracts to Xaviar Ltd and Malachitte FZE.

The two companies are linked to the British businessman Zuneth Sattar, who also denied any wrongdoing.

Critics of president Chakwera, who made rooting out corruption one of the key planks of his successful election campaign in 2020, cited Dr Chilima’s case as an example of his failure of his inability to tackle the issue.

Dr Chilima was a candidate in the 2019 Malawian presidential election and finished third.

That vote that was won by incumbent Peter Mutharika but was annulled by Malawi’s Constitutional Court because of irregularities.

Mr Chakwera finished second in the contest.

Dr Chilima then joined Mr Chakwera’s campaign as his running mate in the historic election rerun 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.