Inquiry: Did VP’s office flout procedure in securing ill-fated plane?

As the nation mourns the passing of Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima, Vice President of the Republic of Malawi, one detail that struck me on Thursday was the revelation by Army Commander Gen. Paul Valentino Phiri during a press conference held alongside the Minister of Information, Hon. Moses Kunkuyu.

Gen. Phiri, while explaining the details about the aircraft and its crew, mentioned how the Office of the Vice President requested the use of the plane for the late Chilima.

According to the Malawi Defence Force boss, a request came from the Principal Secretary in the Office of the Vice President, indicating that the late Vice President wished to fly to Mzuzu to attend the burial of the former Attorney General, Ralph Kasambara.

This detail caught my attention because, procedurally, the Office of the Vice President is supposed to make such a request to the Commander-in-Chief, in this case, President Lazarus Chakwera, through the Secretary to the President and Cabinet (SPC).

Once the President grants approval, the SPC contacts the Office of the Army Commander to ascertain the availability of the aircraft and to request its release for the Vice President’s use.

In this instance, it is clear that the procedure was deliberately breached, as officials in the Office of the Vice President knew that their boss was not delegated to represent the Government at the funeral.

Nyasa Times quoted sources saying the President had delegated Defence Minister and Malawi Congress Party Vice President, Hon. Harry Mlekanjala Mkandawire, to represent him and speak on behalf of the Government.

Further revelations from sources indicated that officials from the Vice President’s office pressured the MDF to release the aircraft despite being informed that it was chartered and that the weather conditions were not conducive for navigating and landing in the Northern Region.

The Army Commander revealed that the aircraft, registered as MAF TO3, had a good service record. The crew, consisting of Owen Sambalopa as Pilot in Command, Major Flora Selemani as Second in Command, and Major Wales Aidini as Aircraft Engineer, were all very experienced with the Dornier aircraft.

In the midst of this grief, it is important to avoid misinforming and poisoning the public mind with lies. As facts come to light, officials from the Office of the Vice President have a duty to tell the nation the truth.

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