The Malawi Congress Party (MCP) on Friday ‘chartered’ an Ulendo Airlink plane to ferry its four officials from Mzuzu to Likoma Island.
The plane later crash-landed near Kamuzu International Airport on return to Lilongwe after developing a fault. The incident happened after the plane had dropped the four passengers in Mzuzu.
The four officials included, MCP North-South chairperson Joseph Chavula, who went to Likoma District where the party had a meeting and rally.
Likoma MCP district chairperson Filipo Chapuchapu said the four held two meetings, an indoor and a rally, where they addressed supporters on the island.
In an interview on Sunday, MCP publicity secretary Reverend Maurice Munthali claimed the plane was chartered by a party well-wisher.
He said the money did not come from the party coffers, rather from a well-wisher who does not want to be mentioned.
Munthali said: “No, the plane wasn’t chartered by the party per se.
The money didn’t come from the party coffers at all, it was just a well wisher who said I think I can charter a plane for you.”
He said chartering planes for political rallies is not the policy of the MCP.
“But at the same time, you would not say no to anybody who would want to support you. There is no way you could be hiring planes as if we have money in this world, we have money in people, but not in our coffers, we don’t have.
“When we say MCP is rich, is wealthy, it’s because we have people who have the heart to support. Otherwise, you can go to our coffers and there is no where you will see that there was a plane, there is nothing in our books,” said Munthali.
He said the ‘donor’, who he could not name, paid the airline directly, and did not share the cost of the 7-hour charter.
Ulendo Airlink manager Themba Nkosi could not be drawn to comment on how much the plane costs when it is chartered. The plane was in MCP hands for seven hours.
While the airline and MCP are mum on how much it costs to charter the plane from Lilongwe to Likoma, information on the airline’s website shows that it costs $1 450 (about K1 232 500) per person and a combined K4 930 000 for four people.
Charter Rates are based on exclusive use of a Cessna C210, Single Engine Piston aircraft with a single pilot and maximum four adults.
Charter Rates do not include any passenger airport taxes payable to authorities on departure,” it reads, and the four used the same flight number ZQ FTA.
Ulendo Airlink is a local charter airline based in Lilongwe. The company launched services in 2011 and operates flights throughout Malawi.
The airline also provides scheduled, unscheduled and charter flights to major and remote airstrips in Malawi and conducts operations between Zambia and Kamuzu International Airport.
Civil Aviation director James Chakwera said an investigation is ongoing to find out why the engine stopped working.
But he confirmed that the Ulendo plane flew from Lilongwe to Mzuzu to carry four people to Likoma District.
Chakwera said: “The pilot reported that he had a cut-out on the engine. He was very close to the runway and he thought he would manage to land.