Opinion

Why Malawians are mourning Chilima’s tragic death: “He’s a selfless public servant, a democrat at heart”

The nation is sobbing! The country is crying! Malawians are mourning! They are mourning the loss of their State Vice President, Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima, and eight other productive and patriotic citizens who lost their lives in a plane crash on Monday.

And as President Dr. Lazarus McCarthy Chakwera rightly put it, “words cannot describe how heartbreaking” and the amount of grief in the hearts of Malawians of goodwill.

Chilima was a selfless public servant and a democrat at heart

The ill-fated aircraft went missing after it failed to land at the Mzuzu International Airport, about 380 km (240 miles) to the north of the capital Lilongwe. On instructions from the airport commandant at the said airport, the pilot made a U-turn and flew the plane back to Lilongwe.

But in the course of the flight back to Kamuzu International Airport, where it had departed a few minutes earlier, and due to the said bad weather, the plane hit a rock. And due to the impact, the plane was completely damaged, claiming lives of Chilima and all the eight other passengers aboard it.

However, when news filtered in about the missing of the military aircraft, Malawians kept calm and remained glued to their faith and hoped for the best. They prayed for the safety of their beloved Vice President and the others.

As Maggie Namizinga Kasambara, wife to late Ralph Kasambara whose funeral Chilima and others were going to attend before they met their fate, Malawians were in disbelief, and until yesterday, we were fervently praying and hoping that the news of the plane going missing were merely rumors.

Yes! Every Malawian of goodwill wished this was a mere rumor. But this was never to be because the will of the evil one had won the battle. The nation had lost it, not even on penalties, but straight goal.

“We wake up wishing it were all a dream, but it is a harsh reality we cannot escape,” reacted Kasambara’s widow, adding: “At this time, we ask our friends and families to keep us in their prayers, particularly Madame Mary Nkhamanyachi Chilima, wife of the late Vice President, and the two children. Our deepest condolences go out to the families of the other eight passengers, as well as to those of the crew members who perished. This was the same plane we used to travel to Mzuzu from Blantyre on Sunday, June 9th, and as President Lazarus Chakwera noted in his speech, it had successfully completed numerous trips across the country until yesterday.”

President Chakwera seemed to concur with her when he described Chilima’s tragic death as a terrible loss not only to his wife, Mary, his family, his friends, but also the nation at large.

The Malawi leader said his loss was tragic because the departed Second Citizen was a patriotic citizen “who served his country with distinction”.

Chilima was a selfless family man, humble servant at St. Patrick’s Catholic Parish in Area 18 and probably one of the most eloquent, straightforward-looking, democratic and approachable politician. He was a source of inspiration not only to the youths, but the entire nation, which looked up to him for solutions to the social and economic challenges facing the nation.

President Chakwera was therefore on point when he said in his national address that he considered it one of the greatest honours of his life to have had him as his deputy and counsellor for the past four years.

“And I know that even the others who were on that flight were men and women of honour who served their country with distinction and whose families are left with broken hearts today. I am profoundly sorry to all of you for this terrible loss, and I pray for God to comfort us all and bind up our wounds as we mourn together as one nation under one flag,” said Chakwera of the Chilima.

In his condolence message, Human Rights Defenders Coalition (HRDC) National Chairperson, Gift Trapence, said Malawi had lost a Vice President whose legacy revolved around his passion to inspire and serve the country with unwavering loyalty, commitment, and patriotism.

Trapence said Chilima was a dedicated public servant who devoted his life to the people of Malawi and was instrumental in advancing the rights of marginalized communities and promoting democratic values in our nation.

But that is not all that the late Vice President was. According to Joyce Chitsulo, the Chairperson of the Public Appointments Committee (PAC) of Parliament, Chilima was accommodative. He never discriminated anyone based on political, religious or ethnic lines.

Chitsulo admitted that Chilima was ‘good to even some of us, regardless of being of different political parties’. This shows how democratic he was.

On the other hand, the National Advocacy Platform (NAP) Board Chairperson, Benedicto Kondowe, said Dr. Saulos Klaus Chilima was a beacon of hope, a leader of remarkable vision and dedication.

Kondowe stated that his sudden departure is therefore not only a colossal loss to his beloved family, but also to the entire nation.

“We call for unity and resilience as we navigate through this heartbreaking period. It is in such times of unimaginable sorrow that our strength as a nation is tested. Let us come together, offering the departed souls the dignified mourning they so rightfully deserve. We pray that God, in His infinite mercy, comforts the bereaved families, providing them with the strength to endure this great loss. May He also grant them the hope of reuniting with their loved ones in the resurrection,” he said.

Kondowe underscored the need for the government to institute a commission of inquiry to investigate the crash and keep the nation informed, stressing that this will enhance the country’s emergency response and prevent future incidents.

“As we mourn the significant contributions of the departed, let us honor their memory by continuing their legacy of service and dedication to our country,” he appealed.

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