Zambians, SADC Mourn Sata

Zambians held a final memorial service for President Michael Sata on Monday, ahead of his funeral to be held on Tuesday.

At least nine African heads of state are expected to arrive in Zambia on Monday to pay their last respects as the country prepares to bury its president Michael Sata.

The body of President Sata will lie in state at State House on Monday before being taken to his final resting place at Embassy Park, the presidential burial site.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, as chairperson of SADC, is expected to address mourners at Tuesday’s service.

On Monday morning, a thanksgiving service was held. It was attended by the country’s past presidents Kenneth Kaunda and Rupiah Banda as well as opposition leaders and senior government officials.

Michael Sata’s unexpected death from an undisclosed illness in London on October 28 has plunged Zambia into both mourning and anxiety.  

On Sunday, thousands of ordinary Zambians snaked around the Mulungushi Conference Centre for the public viewing.

Bidding one last farewell to a populist leader who in three short years transformed the face of Zambia.

Under his leadership, Zambia rebuilt the road infrastructure and developed tertiary institutions in every province.  

And on Monday it was the turn of the church, Patriotic Front loyalists, senior government officials, past presidents and opposition leaders.

President Sata is the second president to die in office in the country. A colourful president Sata was often referred to as King Cobra for his quick temper and sharp tongue.

But he was increasingly ruthless towards the opposition, prosecuting his predecessor and political opponent Rupiah Banda.

Nevertheless, Banda attended the service and said a few words: “Of course it’s very sad, it’s not normal. We never had a civil war.”

As mourners look back, opposition leaders are now looking forward to a new election that must be held by January.

They say with a new constitution Zambia could have avoided some of the crisis that the country finds itself in.

UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema says there is a need for elections.

 “This country needs to do certain things to avoid…we are having another presidential by-election.”

SA’s deputy vice president Cyril Ramaposa is expected in the country on Monday.

Vice president Guy Scott will lead mourners at the state funeral on Tuesday.