Before joining politics, Saulos Chakwera held leadership positions in multinational companies including Coca Cola and Airtel. / Photo: AFP

By Sylvia Chebet

Born on February 12, 1973 in Blantyre, Malawi, Saulos Klaus Chilima, was the first born child of Henderson Brown Chilima and Elizabeth Frances Chilima.

He spent most of his early life in Blantyre where his father worked as an aircraft engineer for Air Malawi, later renamed Malawi Airlines.

During school holidays, the young Chilima would shuttle between the villages of Lilongwe and Ntcheu where his grandparents lived.

Maziko Matemba, a health activist in Malawi, knew the fallen vice president from his primary school days at Dharap.

Their paths crossed again later in life when Chilima was already a vice president, and their childhood friendship was instantly reignited.

"I will remember him as a passionate Christian and a family man who was sociable," Matemba tells TRT Afrika.

Chilima, a devout Catholic married Mary Nkhamanyachi Chilima with whom he shares two children, Sean and Elizabeth.

Saulos Klaus Chilima married Mary Chilima and got two children. Photo: @Saulos Chilima/X

Chilima graduated from the University of Malawi with a Bachelors Degree in Social Sciences in 1994 and later returned to his alma mater to pursue a Master's Degree in Economics.

In 2015, he received his Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Knowledge Management from the University of Bolton in the United Kingdom.

He started his career at Lever Brothers (Mw) Limited (now Unilever) before moving on to the Leasing and Finance Company of Malawi, and later Southern Bottlers Limited.

His last professional assignment in the corporate space was at Airtel Malawi, where he led the sales team before being named the first-ever local managing director for the company in 2010.

Chilima's childhood friend, Matemba was not suprised by his steady rise in the corporate space considering his work ethic.

"He was a man full of energy with passion for excellence." Matemba recalls.

Chilima reportedly grew Airtel Malawi's annual revenue by 75% over a period of three years from $ 54m in 2010 to $ 95m in 2013.

Political career

Chilima made his debut in politics in 2014, when President Peter Mutharika unveiled him as a running mate.

 Saulos Chilima, who came third in the 2019 poll, teamed up with Lazarus Chakwera to defeat Peter Mutharika in 2020. Photo: @Saulos Chilima/X

However, he broke away from Mutharika in 2018 and launched his United Transformation Movement (UTM) party, ahead of the May 2019 elections.

Aiming to form a united opposition, Chilima's UTM formed an alliance with Joyce Banda's Peoples Party and Cassim ChilumphaTikonze People's Movement alongside a host of other smaller political parties.

They agreed to field one presidential candidate, but both Joyce Banda and Cassim Chilumph later withdrew from the alliance, citing disagreement in the selection of a running mate.

Chilima would ganner 20% of the vote in the poll in which the then-incumbent Peter Mutharika had been declared winner.

Malawi's constitutional court later annulled Mutharika's victory, citing vote tampering and a re-run was scheduled for June 2020.

Saulos Chilima served as Malawi's vice president under Presidents Peter Mutharika and Lazarus Chakwera. Photo: @Saulos Chilima/X

Lazarus Chakwera, who had come second place, picked Chilima as his running mate. With their forces combined, they pushed out the Mutharika administration with a 58% vote victory.

However, in 2022, President Chakwera stripped Chilima of his delegated powers as a vice president following a $150m corruption scandal, but was later cleared of the charges.

Announcing Chilima's death, President Chakwera paid a glowing tribute to his deputy, saying he was a devoted father and husband, a patriotic citizen who served his country with distinction.

"I consider it one of the greatest honours of my life to have had him as my deputy and counsellor for the past four years," the president's statement read.

President Lazarus Chakwera confirmed that Dr. Saulos Chilima and nine others died in a plane crash on Monday, June 10, 2024. /Photo: @Saulos Chilima/X

"His passing is a terrible loss to his wife Mary, his family, his friends, his colleagues in cabinet, and to all of us as a nation that found his leadership and courage a source of inspiration."

The father of two died in an aircraft crash on his way to represent the government at the burial of former Justice Minister Ralph Kasambara, who died three days earlier.

TRT Afrika