Tens of Thousands Mourn Malawi’s Vice President at State Funeral Following Tragic Plane Crash

Lilongwe, Malawi – June 16, 2024: Tens of thousands of Malawians gathered at the Bingu National Stadium on Saturday to honor the late Vice President Saulos Chilima, who tragically died in a plane crash last week. The 51-year-old politician was widely respected for his charismatic and energetic approach, which resonated deeply with the country’s youth.

The national stadium, with a capacity of 41,000, was filled to the brim with mourners, while many more congregated outside. The somber event was marked by an emotional tribute, reflecting the immense impact Chilima had on Malawian politics and the community.

President Promises Thorough Investigation

At the funeral service, President Lazarus Chakwera committed to a comprehensive investigation into the cause of the crash. Despite initial reports attributing the crash to poor visibility due to bad weather, there have been calls for an independent probe, particularly from Chilima’s party, the United Transformation Movement (UTM). Chakwera assured the public that the Malawian military would lead an investigation, supplemented by an independent review to ensure transparency and accountability.

“I also have the same questions that Malawians have,” President Chakwera stated, emphasizing the need for clarity on the tragic incident. His promise of a thorough inquiry came amidst a backdrop of visible public discontent, with sections of the crowd at the stadium expressing their frustration through boos, which subsided only after Catholic priests intervened.

Emotional Tributes and National Mourning

The ceremony, which included a full Catholic mass, began with heartfelt tributes from Chilima’s family. His son, Sean, spoke movingly about his father’s loving nature and competitive spirit, while his brother, Ben, expressed gratitude for the return of Chilima’s personal belongings, including his watch and rosary, from the crash site.

Saulos Chilima’s coffin, draped in the Malawian flag, was brought into the stadium by a guard of honor, symbolizing the nation’s deep respect for his service. The late Vice President will be laid to rest in his home district of Ntcheu, and Monday has been declared a public holiday to honor his memory.

A Prominent Political Figure

Chilima’s unexpected death has left a significant void in Malawian politics. Known for his eloquence and dynamic campaign style, he was seen as a refreshing presence in the political landscape. He had served as Vice President since 2014, initially under President Peter Mutharika, before breaking away to form his own party, the UTM. His political journey was marked by his effort to challenge and transform the status quo, including a landmark role in the annulment of the 2019 presidential election results due to fraud allegations.

In the 2020 presidential election, Chilima formed an alliance with then-opposition leader Lazarus Chakwera, helping to secure a historic victory. He had anticipated taking over from Chakwera in the next presidential election in September 2025, a succession plan that is now uncertain following his untimely death.

Legacy and Political Impact

As Malawians continue to mourn, Chilima’s legacy as a passionate advocate for change and youth engagement in politics remains strong. His death not only brings personal loss to his family and supporters but also poses a significant challenge for the political landscape in Malawi as the nation approaches its next electoral cycle.

Chilima’s influence and the potential fallout from his death will undoubtedly shape the political discourse in the coming months as the country grapples with his absence and the implications for the future leadership of Malawi.

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