Sata dies, Guy Scott makes history
Zambia’s fifth President since it attained independence from Britain in 1964, Michael Chilufya Sata, has died. President Sata, who was 77, died at a London hospital on Tuesday night and is survived by his wife Dr Christine Kaseba and two children.
Secretary to the Zambian Cabinet Mr Roland Msiska announced that Vice President Dr Guy Scott will be the acting president.
Dr Scott will serve for 90 days until elections for a new president are held, but is ineligible to be elected president because his parents were not born in Zambia, a requirement of the Zambian constitution.
Before Dr Scott, Defence Minister Edgar Lungu was acting president when President Sata left for London.
Dr Scott becomes Africa’s first white Head of State in 20 years since South Africa’s F.W. de Klerk lost to Nelson Mandela in the 1994 election that ended apartheid.
President Sata was elected in 2011, under the banner of the Patriotic Front party after beating incumbent President Rupiah Banda of the Movement for Multi-party Democracy.
A seasoned and no-nonsense politician, he was nicknamed “King Cobra”.
He also had zero-tolerance against corruption, saying in a statement after his inauguration: “During the campaigns we made an undertaking that we shall robustly fight corruption and we shall do just that.”
Zambia and Zimbabwe enjoy strong historical relations, with the northern neighbour having offered rear bases for freedom fighters during the liberation struggle.
President Sata was also a special friend of the people of Zimbabwe, President Mugabe and the ruling Zanu-PF party.
Zambia and Zimbabwe in 2013 co-hosted one of the most successful sessions of the United Nations World Tourism conferences in Victoria Falls.
President Sata once described President Mugabe as the “Chief of Chimurenga” and slammed the Western sponsored MDC party and the illegal sanctions imposed by Britain, the United States and their allies, while supporting Zimbabwe’s land reform programme.
When Zimbabwe was under siege in 2007, he called on Sadc member states to “adopt a position that does not allow the recolonisation of Zimbabwe and urged them to “strongly protest against such attempts.”
President Sata’s inauguration in 2011 was witnessed by foreign dignitaries, including Vice President Joice Mujuru who led the Zimbabwean delegation comprising Cdes Sydney Sekeremayi and Didymus Mutasa.
A year after the MDC’s formation, the late Zambian leader did not hide his disdain of the MDC and said members of the party were being funded by whites to return colonial rule to the region.
“Anyone who works with someone wanting to deprive you of your birthright is not worth to rule,” he said.
President Sata criticised the MDC and white former commercial farmers for taking court action to reverse the land reform programme and eventually remove President Mugabe from power.
He said there was no way the courts would remove President Mugabe from power because he had suffered for the liberation of the country.
“For the sake of two dollars, someone is going to court to remove (President) Mugabe when he sacrificed more than two dollars for the country. Since when did the court fight for this country?” he said.
At one point, he described the MDC as a “Mad Cow Party” saying, “they are gangsters. If someone can go in front of television cameras collecting money, collecting money from whites publicly, then I wonder what they do behind closed doors.
“The laws are made by us (governments). The courts do not manufacture land. Without land, we are as good as dead.”
During Zambia’s 2006 presidential elections, President Sata hinted that if elected, he would follow similar land reform policies done by President Mugabe.
“What (President) Robert Mugabe has done is sensible… He hasn’t roasted any white persons,” he said. “He has just taken back what belongs to them (Zimbabweans). Mugabe hasn’t done anything wrong. It is the imperialists, the capitalist roaders who say he is a villain.”
In 2007, President Sata further attacked the MDC saying: “If the MDC had looked at the critical areas to attack Zanu-PF, they would have found some, but now they are ineffective because they are working against the poor people by opposing the land reform exercise, the people would have supported them… Morgan Tsvangirai should not fight President Mugabe on behalf of the imperialists. The people will not respect him.
“We (Zambians) died for this country. We are willing to die for this country again.”
President Sata paid a three-day State visit to Zimbabwe in April 2012 where a number of bilateral agreements were inked between the two countries.
Hailing good relations between the two countries, President Mugabe described Zimbabwe and Zambia as Siamese twins.
“That we are inseparable can be traced back to the old times when our two people traded and shared the great Zambezi River,” he said.
“Then there was the ill-fated Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, which left large numbers of our people on either side of our borders. .. You suffered reprisals by the Smith regime because of the support you gave us.”
President Sata paid tribute to Zimbabwe’s liberation war heroes: “Today, we can stand here and say that their sacrifice was not in vain as Zimbabwe, Zambia and all other countries in the region enjoy a vibrant spirit of nationhood that is admirable on the continent.”
President Sata became the second Zambian leader to die while in office after the country’s third President Levy Mwanawasa died in 2008 after being elected in 2002.
Another former Zambian President Fredrick Chiluba died in 2011 after leaving office in 2002.
Out the five presidents who have ruled Zambia since independence in 1964, only founding President Kenneth Kaunda who ruled until 1991 and President Rupiya Banda who ruled from 2008 to 2011 are still alive.
Acting President Scott appealed to Zambians to remain calm and united during the period of national mourning, which started yesterday.
He urged Zambians to observe the period of national mourning in a peaceful and respectful manner and observe the rule of law.
Dr Scott said the Presidential by-election will take place within the next 90 days in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
He assured that he will diligently oversee the process of electing a new President in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
Meanwhile, messages of condolences were pouring in with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta hailing Sata as an “outstanding son of Africa”.
“He was gifted with unique, admirable abilities and strong values,” he said in a statement. – Herald Reporters/Agencies