Opposition parties unite with Chakwera as Malawi mourns Chilima, Parliament weighs in, 21-day mourning period declared

Major opposition political parties in Malawi brushed aside their politicking and locked hands with President Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera as the entire nation is plunged in deep mourning, following the tragic demise of State Vice President Saulos Chilima and eight other people in a plane crash.

Nankhumwa consoles Chakwera as Joyce Banda looks on

The military plane carrying Chilima and the others, untraceable since Monday mid-morning, had been found crashed more than 24 hours later on Tuesday noon, after a gruelling search in the vast Chikangawa forest in Malawi’s Northern Region.

In their heartfelt condolence messages, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), United Democratic Front (UDF) and Alliance for Democracy (AFORD) expressed their deepest sadness at the incident and urged Malawians to “also unite with authorities during this difficult time”.   

Main opposition DPP, in a statement, said “the entire nation should find strength and comfort in unity as it mourns its true sons and daughters”.

“Our deep thoughts of sympathy go to Madam Mary Chilima and children, the families and loved ones of the nine others, His Excellency Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera, the President of the nation, members of the UTM party and all Malawians of goodwill,” reads in part the statement, signed by the party’s Spokesperson Shadric Namalomba.

UDF Spokesperson, Yusuf Mwawa, said “the party’s thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by this tragedy”.

“As a party, we will offer all the necessary support in mourning our fallen compatriots, who served this great Republic with dedication, integrity and honour”.

AFORD, in a statement signed by the party’s Spokesperson Annie Amatullah Maluwa, said “it is deeply troubled” by the incident involving Chilima and the other nine Malawians.

“Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima was one of a kind leader whose humility was unmatched by any other politician. Indeed, this is a very difficult time for the family and the nation”.

The remains of Chilima and the other eight people, retrieved from the plane’s wreck on Tuesday afternoon, were flown to Lilongwe in a sombre send off, attended by ruling party politicians, military and police, among many other people. They were welcomed in the capital, at Kumuzu International Airport, by President Chakwera, Madam Chilima and cabinet ministers, among many other government and party officials and citizens.

The other deceased eight people are: Ms Patricia Shanil Dzimbiri, Mr Lukas Kapheni, Mr Chisomo Chimaneni, Mr Daniel Kanyemba, Mr Abdul Kingstone Lapukeni, Col. Owen Sambalopa, Major Flora Selemani, and Major Wales Aidini.

President Chakwera has since Tuesday night declared 21 days of mourning for Chilima and the others and directed that all flags be flown at half-mast throughout the entire mourning period, according to a statement from Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Colleen Zamba.

The statement adds that further details regarding funeral arrangements will be announced in due course.

Meanwhile, Parliament of Malawi says it has learnt with deep sorrow and shock about the sudden demise of Chilima and eight “talented and young” Malawian officials.

In a statement, the Speaker, Catherine Gotani Hara, says “the scale, manner and impact of this tragedy leaves the entire nation in unimaginable grief”.

“Rt. Hon Saulos Klaus Chilima has left a legacy of hard work, patriotism, dedication and unwavering commitment to the nation which, for sure, will inspire us all in our efforts to build a better future for generations to come.

“As we gather together as a nation in mourning, let us also honour the memories of the departed and support their loved ones. Our thoughts and prayers are with the State President and his Cabinet, the bereaved families, and the entire nation,” the statement reads in part.

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