Sata No More, VP Scott Acting
Lusaka – In a span of five decades since gaining independence from Britain, three Zambian Heads of State have died ‑ two of them in office.
First was third president Levy Mwanawasa, who died from suspected stroke on August 19, 2008, in France, enroute to Egypt for an African Union summit. Next was Frederick Chiluba, the country’s second president (1991-2002), who died in 2010 from an undisclosed illness some eight years after leaving office. And on Tuesday, October 28, Zambia was thrown into mourning again when fifth and sitting president, Michael Chilufya Sata, died in a London hospital from an unspecified illness.
Mwanawasa and Sata coincidentally passed on barely two years before completing their scheduled five-year terms in office.
Sata, unlike Mwanawasa, has died during his first five-year term, after taking office in 2011 following the defeat of then incumbent Rupiah Banda. He was inaugurated as Head of State on September 23, 2011.
Secretary to the Cabinet, Rowland Msiska, and Information and Broadcasting Minister, Joseph Katema, have confirmed Sata’s death on national radio.
Sata, who was 77 years old, has not been seen in public since August this year due to ill-health.
Born on July 6, 1937 in Mpika in Zambia’s Northern Province, Sata assumed the Presidency from Banda after three failed attempts, following more than three decades of dedicated public service.
He served in the three administrations under Dr Kenneth Kaunda, Chiluba and Mwanawasa in various portfolios, including District Governor of Lusaka, Lusaka Mayor, Minister of Health and Minister without Portfolio.
In 2000, Sata was one of those who championed President Chiluba’s failed bid for a third five-year term, which was thwarted by Zambians through mass demonstrations and backed by the constitutional provisions that only allow an incumbent to govern for two five-year terms.
Out of frustration, Sata left the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), to form his own political party, the Patriotic Front (PF) in 2001. This was after falling out of favour with then president Chiluba, who instead of picking him as his “trusted lieutenant” to take over the presidency, ended up nominating Levy Mwanawasa in 2001, as his successor.
Sata, seen to many as a “fighter”, immediately went into campaigns and contested 2001 elections but lost to Mwanawasa, although his party managed to win one parliamentary seat in northern Zambia in the 150-member parliament.
He later contested and lost against Mwanawasa in the 2006 elections. After the demise of Mwanawasa in 2008, Sata lost another bid to ascend to power, losing to Rupiah Banda of MMD in a by-election held to replace Mwanawasa.
Undaunted by the previous setbacks, Sata went to the drawing board and in his fourth attempt won presidential election in September 2011, becoming the fifth Zambian president after Kaunda, who lost power in 1991 after ruling the Southern African state for 27 years.
Brought up in Mpika, Northern Province, Sata worked as, among other jobs, a police officer in the colonial government, railway man and trade unionist. He has been actively involved in politics since 1963, which has earned him reputation as one of the country’s freedom fighters. Through his political activism, he has participated in various national obligations, serving as minister and governor of Lusaka during the 1980s under the then ruling United National Independence Party (UNIP).
As governor, he made his mark as a man of action with a hands-on approach in which he contributed to the reconstruction of Lusaka as Zambia’s capital city.
Renowned as “action man”, Sata had during his civic roles, together with others, cleaned up the streets of the capital, patched up roadways and built bridges in the city, all which are still standing.
He later became a lawmaker for Kabwata Constituency, an elite constituency in the heart of Lusaka, where he served two five-year terms.
Sata, who spent 10 years in opposition politics, won the Presidency premised on various promises to, among other things, enact a “people driven” constitution within 90 days after assuming power, re-do Zambia’s infrastructure and remained more vitriolic in his anti-Chinese rhetoric.
He, however, toned down after assuming office and has to date, remained one of Zambia’s celebrated politicians to have ever lived and whose life will be celebrated by many for years to come.
On regional integration, Sata will be remembered for his unwavering desire to facelift Zambia’s infrastructure after 50 year of independence.
The three years under Sata’s administration have seen the construction of bridges, health facilities, rejuvenation of the public road and railway networks, and other public amenities.
Sata may be no more, but many ‑ especially the poor, will remember him for his “heart for the vulnerable groups”.
It was not until Sata emerged on the political scene, that Kaunda was recognized as the “Father of the Nation” and among others restored his gratuity and ensured Kaunda’s house, where he lives today, was completed and made habitable.
Sata is no more, but his legacy at home and in Africa ‑ especially in Southern African Development Community (SADC) where he sought to be part of the regional integration – will live on. His desire was to facelift infrastructure, adhere to all integration requisites and make Zambia and SADC a region ready for integration with the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and East African Community.
These and many other accolades are, and will remain, his hallmarks even in his death.
Zambia’s 50th jubilee is seemingly drowned with the death of President Sata. However, former president Rupiah Banda, whose presidential immunity was removed by the late President in March 2013, has described Sata as a “passionate and determined competitor, who should be mourned with dignity and honour”.
“The late President was more than a public servant and was a Zambian, in body, soul, and spirit,” Banda said in a statement seen by The Southern Times in Lusaka.
Meanwhile, Zambia’s Defence Minister Edgar Lungu, who was Acting President in the absence of the late Zambian leader, Michael Sata, has handed over the instruments of power to Vice President Guy Scott, in line with the provisions of the country’s Constitution. The development comes after confirmation of President Michael Sata’s death and the ensuing debate on whether Scott was eligible to act. Lungu will now revert back to his positions as the country’s Defence and Justice Minister. Lungu is also the ruling party’s secretary-general.
According the Zambian Constitution, a presidential election must be held within 90 days.