Search continues for missing Malawian aircraft with vice president on-board



Published Jun 11, 2024


President of Malawi, Lazarus Chakwera said international partners including the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway and Israel have pledged to support the ongoing efforts to locate the missing Malawian Defence Force aircraft MAF TO3 which vanished after failing to land in Mzuzu – less than 400 kilometres to the north of Lilongwe.

The military aircraft was carrying Malawi's Vice President Saulos Klaus Chilima who was travelling to the funeral of Malawi’s former attorney general and minister of justice, Ralph Kasambara.

In an update to the nation, Chakwera said on Monday morning, the aircraft departed Kamuzu International Airport in Lilongwe carrying the 51-year-old Chilima, former first lady Shanil Dzimbiri and eight other individuals on board, including three Malawi Defence Force operators.

“However, upon arrival in Mzuzu, the pilot was unable to land the plane due to poor visibility occasioned by bad weather, and aviation authorities advised the aircraft to return to Lilongwe, but the authorities soon lost contact with the aircraft,” said Chakwera.

“The Malawi Defence Force commander contacted me immediately and I ordered him to effect a search and rescue operation and to give me a report within four hours.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa with Dr Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, President of the Republic of Malawi during a previous working visit to South Africa. File Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

“That report was given to me at 3pm (on Monday), and by that time it had been established using signals from telecommunication towers in the area that the plane was located somewhere within a 10 kilometres radius of Raiply, which has since become the area of focus for the Malawi Defence Force search and rescue operation.”

Chakwera said he has noted some media reports suggesting that the search and rescue operation has been suspended. He said the reports are “false”.

“Malawi Defence Force soldiers are still on the ground carrying out the search and I have given strict orders that the operation should continue until the plane is found,” he said.

“I have also directed the Malawi Defence Force officials who are overseeing the operation to give you all regular updates on how the operation is going so that we can all be informed about the progress of establishing what happened to our loved ones, our colleagues, and our fellow compatriots who were on board that flight.”

The Malawian president said the situation is heartbreaking situation.

“I know that we are all frightened and concerned. I too am concerned. But I want to assure you that I am sparing no available resource to find that plane, and I am holding on to every fibre of hope that we will find survivors,” said Chakwera.

“We have already contacted our neighbouring countries, as well as development partners, including the United States government, the British government, the Norwegian government, and the Israeli government, who have all offered support in different forms, including the use of specialised technologies that will enhance our capacity to find the plane sooner. I am most grateful for this support.”

The Malawian president, who was due to travel to the Bahamas for a working visit, has since cancelled his trip.

In 2022, Chilima was stripped of his powers when he was arrested and charged with graft over a bribery scandal involving a British-Malawian businessman.

Last month, a Malawian court dropped the charges after Chilima attended several court appearances.