Michael Sata, ‘King Cobra’ President of Zambia, Dies at 77
Sata died yesterday in London, where he had been receiving medical treatment, Rowland Msiska, secretary to the Zambian cabinet, said in an announcement broadcast on state radio today in the capital, Lusaka.
“It is with a very heavy heart that I address you today to inform the nation that our beloved president and leader, his excellency Mr. Michael Chilufya Sata, has passed on,” Msiska said. Sata is the second Zambian leader to die in office, after President Levy Mwanawasa died in France in 2008.
Sata traveled to London on Oct. 19 and was absent for celebrations in Zambia marking the 50th anniversary of independence from British rule last week. Sata failed to deliver a scheduled speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City in September and the government denied reports he had gone to the hospital there.
Known as “King Cobra” for his sharp tongue, Sata founded the then opposition Patriotic Front party in 2001, after splitting from the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy. He unsuccessfully ran for president in 2001, 2006 and 2008 before ending the rule of his former party in the 2011 vote.
Within four months of coming into power, Sata reversed the previous government’s decision to sell Finance Bank Zambia Ltd., a Lusaka-based lender, to South Africa’s FirstRand Ltd. and of Zambia Telecommunications Corp., a fixed-line operator, to Libyan African Investment Portfolio. He also dissolved the board of the central bank, and embarked on an anti-corruption campaign that opposition leaders said targeted them.
Drawing much of his support from the rural poor and unemployed youth, Sata refused to drink bottled water “until all Zambians have equal access to clean water,” according to the Patriotic Front’s website. About 61 percent of Zambia’s 14 million people lives on less than $1 a day, World Bank data show.
“We mourn, with our Zambian brothers and sisters, the passing of another of Africa’s great independence era leaders,” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said in a statement. “His rise from humble beginnings to the top office teaches us an important lesson: a worthy individual can triumph over the most daunting adversities.”
Sata was a critic of Chinese investment in Zambia before his election victory, alleging that Chinese-owned companies flouted labor laws and underpaid workers. After becoming president, he said he wanted to work with them.
Chinese companies have invested $2.1 billion in Zambia, according to the Chinese Embassy’s website in Zambia.
Michael Chilufya Sata was born on July 6, 1937, in Mpika, then in Zambia’s Northern province. He was the son of Langford Mubanga Sata and Bukali Kabuswe.
Having once swept train platforms in London, he worked as a policeman and labor-union activist in Zambia during the U.K.’s colonial rule of what was then called Northern Rhodesia. He also trained as a pilot in Russia, according to the Patriotic Front’s website. Sata served as the governor of Lusaka, the nation’s capital, from 1981 to 1988, under Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s first post-colonial president.
He had eight children with women including his current wife, Christine Kaseba.
To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Hill in Lusaka at [email protected]
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Charles W. Stevens at [email protected] David Henry, Paul Richardson, Karl Maier
Article credit : bloomberg.net