Malawians Pay Tribute To Vice-President Killed In Plane Crash At Funeral Service

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Thousands of Malawians have taken part in a funeral service at the national stadium to pay tribute to the vice president who was killed in a plane crash last week.

Saulos Chilima, 51, was an eloquent public speaker and energetic campaigner who held huge sway among the youth who accounted for more than half of Malawians.

At the service, President Lazarus Chakwera promised a full investigation into the cause of the crash and said that he had asked foreign governments to help.

“I also have the same questions that Malawians have,” he said.

President Chakwera had previously said the military aircraft had crashed because of poor visibility caused by bad weather but Mr Chilima’s UTM party has called for a thorough and independent investigation.

The president said that the Malawian military would carry out an investigation but that another, independent, one was needed as well.

Mr Chakwera and other government officials were booed by some members of the crowd at the Bingu National Stadium. The 41,000-capacity stadium was full, with more people outside.

Calm was only restored after the intervention of Catholic priests. Mr Chilima was a devout Catholic and the service included a full mass.

He will be buried in his home district of Ntcheu, 180km (112 miles) south of Lilongwe today (Monday), which has been declared a public holiday.

His coffin, draped in Malawi’s red, green and black flag, was brought into the stadium by a guard of honour.

The service began with moving tributes from his family.

His son, Sean, recalled what a loving father he was, how he always had time for children and played games with them. He added that his father had been extremely competitive and always wanted to win.

“Dad was a hard worker who always made sure he got things done,” he said.

His brother, Ben, said the family was grateful to have been given the personal belongings he had on him at the time of the accident, including his watch and rosary.

Chilima died last week Monday as he was flying to the northern town of Nkhata Bay where he was to attend the funeral of a former cabinet minister.

The entire crew and other passengers on board, including former First Lady Shanil Dzimbiri, also perished.