Celebrating the Lives of Malawian Geniuses: Chilima and Kasambara

Saulos Chillima

While it remains an unresolved puzzle how the celebrated Malawi Vice President Saulos Chilima and lawyer Ralph Kasambara died within a short span of time, my resolve to remain silent on this delicate issue has proved futile.

Suffice it to say, I met Saulos Chilima at Chancellor College, University of Malawi, where he was one year ahead of me. I did not personally interact with him at the college as we had different lifestyle interests.

What is striking is that Chilima at that time was a good basketball player and was also popular in the social fraternity, to the extent that he even grabbed the position of Director of Entertainment at the institution with ease.

A decade later, after leaving Chancellor College, I met an acquaintance who was working for Airtel Malawi at that time. At a drinking spree, he praised Chilima for exhibiting massive competence in communication at his place of work. I was not surprised when Chilima later became the first indigenous Chief Executive Officer of Airtel Malawi.

What is also interesting is that Peter Mutharika (APM) opted for Chilima as his Vice President. What did APM find in Saulos Chilima to the extent of abandoning long-serving political party gurus in preference to an outsider of the party?

Let the truth be told, Chilima was an open person. When he politically fell out with APM, he was heard in an audio clip suggesting that he would ascend to power after APM’s demise. Factually and constitutionally, this statement was legal.

Chilima Dies in Plane Crash
Crash site

However, the former President Peter Mutharika responded at a rally by simply saying that no one knew about someone’s death. He described such an unfortunate statement as ‘chibwana,’ translated as being frivolous. It ended there as a res judicata case.

At one point in time, Chilima warned President Chakwera that it would be a ‘recipe for disaster’ if their political alliance pact was not respected. In their agreement, Chakwera was supposed to hand over power to Chilima as the torchbearer of the Tonse Alliance Coalition in the 2025 General elections.

Contrary to their political alliance agreement, President Chakwera some weeks ago announced that he would stand as a presidential candidate in 2025 because the Malawi Constitution permits him to do so. One wonders what a ‘recipe for disaster’ Chilima was cooking in retaliation to Chakwera’s resolve of joining the presidential race in 2025?

It doesn’t require a rocket scientist to know that threats of taking over the government can be handled differently by both Peter Mutharika and Lazarus Chakwera.

All in all, we will remember Saulos Chilima as a charismatic and open-minded youth who excelled in almost all spheres of life, including education, politics, sports, family, religion, social interactions, and humanitarian activities.

One striking characteristic of Saulos Chilima was his unique creativity in coming up with traditional proverbs vernacularly dubbed ‘miyambi.’ One of them is ‘Njoka saweta,’ translated as ‘Beware of your enemies.’ Another one is ‘Ukadzaona munthu wamkulu akukakamira pa mpando ndiye kuti waipitsirapo.’ This proverb endeavors to chide politicians who want to stay in power forever to shield their clandestine and corrupt activities.

On the other hand, the last time I personally interacted with Ralph Kasambara was when he was canvassing for votes around 2009 for his newly formed party, Code. As I was going to work, Ralph handed me a pamphlet and thereafter said, “Vote for Code, Vote for Kasambara.”

I also interacted with Ralph Kasambara on social media platforms, especially Facebook. I still recall the time when Ralph and Manondo concurrently visited my inbox, warning me about commenting on their conspiracy to commit attempted murder case, ‘Tikukudziwa mphwanga, you are not hiding!!’ In a nutshell, they were saying that it was not proper to comment on the case that was then before the court. However, such interaction gave me a different perspective on the case, and I was not surprised later that the court found them guilty of the charges.

Ralph was an open person as he used to post his legal opinions on his Facebook page. What is interesting is that he made his posts public. In fact, I used to comment on his Facebook page until he made his posts private to a litany of his Facebook friends.

What is even more exciting is that Ralph was a good advisor in terms of law and daily living. There was a time when he advised the youth to invest in business rather than acquiring expensive smartphones. He admitted that his mother was a teacher who had bought a car from a loan and couldn’t invest the car in a business venture. However, a certain teacher had invested his car in a taxi driving business and within four years, the business had tripled the number of his cars.

In a nutshell, Ralph Kasambara will be remembered as a legal expert of excellence. He was a well-connected and competent lawyer. He academically excelled to the extent that he became a law lecturer at Chancellor College. He later became a politician, enjoying the portfolios of Attorney General and Minister of Justice during Mutharika and Joyce Banda’s regimes. Ralph was also an entrepreneur who founded his private law firm, Arnold and Ralph Associates.

As everyone has both positive and negative sides, both Chilima and Ralph had once clashed with the law. While Ralph Kasambara was convicted of conspiracy to commit attempted murder, it took the sympathy of President Chakwera to drop Chilima’s corruption charges.

As we celebrate the lives of Ralph Kasambara and Saulos Chilima, it is significant to note that both died under mysterious circumstances.

Ralph Kasambara was suddenly found dead lying on the floor with a wet cloth on his chest. Allegations are that he was in the company of a long-time private lover during the whole night. However, a police report confirmed that various types of drugs and beers were found in his room at the time of his death. Preliminary postmortem findings indicated that Ralph died due to a heart attack as he had a history of heart ailments.

Saulos Chilima, on the other hand, suddenly died in a plane crash when his plane was told to return to Lilongwe due to bad weather. It transpired that he wanted to quickly attend Kasambara’s funeral before seeing off President Chakwera, who was scheduled to go for a holiday in the Bahamas. It is still a mystery how Chilima’s body was found half-naked with only shorts on. No postmortem findings have been released yet to the public on the actual cause of Saulos Chilima’s death before his burial scheduled for Monday, 17 June 2025.

At this juncture, ten probing questions are necessary:

  1. If the plane crash was an accident, what was the technical cause?
  2. If not, could there be a conspiratorial link between the deaths of Ralph Kasambara and Saulos Chilima?
  3. Why did it take so long to search for the crashed plane that carried a very important person, the vice president?
  4. Where are the contents of the black box of the crashed plane?
  5. Why did President Chakwera call for foreign countries to assist with the search of the crashed plane without even putting an effort into involving local villagers who reside near the site of the plane crash?
  6. It is Malawi’s tradition that both the Vice President and his wife attend the funeral. Why was Mary Chilima delayed in boarding the plane?
  7. How true are the allegations that Saulos Chilima did not seek approval from the Commander in Chief of the Malawi Defence Force (MDF), President Chakwera, to use the military plane? If this is true, could the plane crash be an opportunistic retaliation from the authorities?
  8. Who authorized the use of the military plane amid prospects of bad weather?
  9. What technical explanation is given for the fact that the plane crashed on the ground without catching fire?
  10. Why don’t President Chakwera and the MDF authorize an expeditious investigation of the plane crash by international and independent competent investigators?

In conclusion, as we mourn the deaths of Saulos Chilima and Ralph Kasambara, let us vie for the truth. Malawians are further urged to provide concrete evidence to substantiate their claims. May the souls of Saulos Chilima, Ralph Kasambara, and other victims of Chilima’s plane crash rest in eternal peace.