By STEPHEN KAPAMBWE –
TWENTY-ONE rounds rang out as President Michael Sata was laid to rest amid the sound of a fly past and solemn singing of the combined Defence Forces Choir at the Embassy Park in Lusaka.
Daylight was receding into nightfall under a cloudy sky, marking the end of the day and the end of an era for the late leader whose journey started 77 years ago at Chilonga mission in Mpika.
Just as the sun literally set at the end of the burial programme as people in Lusaka and the rest of the country watched in silence, mostly on television, so did curtains close on Mr Sata’s life.
As nightfall crept in before the dawn that awaited the nation after the end of the two weeks of national mourning, the seed of hope for the new day had already been planted.
It was planted through the words of those attending Mr Sata’s requiem mass at the Heroes National Stadium.
Joining thousands of Zambians who thronged the stadium for the mass were presidents Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, Amando Guebuza of Mozambique, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, Hery Rajaonarimampianina of Madagascar and Ifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia.
Also in attendance were vice presidents Cyril Ramaposa of South Africa, Mohammed Bilal of Tanzania and Saulos Chilima of Malawi.
Former presidents Sam Nujoma of Namibia, Festus Mogae of Botswana and Nigeria’s General Yakubu Gowani were also at the ceremony.
From the United Kingdom (UK) came the Countess of Wessex, the wife of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, who represented Queen Elizabeth II at the mass, while the African Union (AU) was represented by Chairperson Nkhosizana Dlamini. Lusaka Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu was on hand to inform the nation how much the Church had been affected by the demise of Mr Sata.
“The bishops’ conference has joined in mourning a leader whom the people loved. Whatever affects our people affects the ’’ he said.
He appealed to the general citizenry never to lose faith and trust in God.
“Death is a reality we cannot deny. It is part of life, and yet we fear it. We start dying the moment we are conceived,” he said.
But his was also a message of hope.
“We should not be preoccupied with counting the years. We should make the years count,” he said, recounting how President Sata touched the lives of many people – especially the poor -in the course of his political life.
He appealed to young politicians to emulate Mr Sata by working as hard as he did in order for them to go to greater heights in life.
“The outpouring of grief speaks of his efforts to reach the majority of Zambians especially the poor, the weak and the maligned,” he said.
Archbishop Mpundu, who said the race for the presidential by-election had already started, called on politicians to help unite the country by avoiding non-divisive campaigns.
He said politicians should avoid tribal, segregationist campaigns and devote their time and energy to explaining how they would better lives of the people.
“Let your ideas fight for you. Denounce violence in any form because to develop our nation needs peace,’’ he said.
He appealed to the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) and stakeholders involved in running the electoral process to ensure that sufficient preparations are done for a free, fair and transparent presidential by-election.
He said the will of the people should be upheld in the impending by-election.
He said in coming years, the challenge of the Government would be to transform education institutions into centres of excellence so that young people are not just educated but schooled in honesty, dedication and other positive attributes that are critical in building a forward looking society.
“Our mission should be to serve others and if we can do that as leaders, we will be successful,” he said.
Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda warned those in positions of influence against the temptation of elevating their egos, pride and partisan interests above those of the Zambian people.
Mr Chikwanda said President Sata’s family expected the peace and harmony that had characterised his funeral to be maintained and strengthened.
Patriotic Front (PF) Secretary General Edgar Lungu said it was a fact that his party had been synonymous with President Sata.
“It is a fact that Michael Sata was PF and without him, there would be
no PF. And this is why we are here, to ensure that the legacy of President Michael Sata does not die with him.
“We shall not allow interests and cartels driven by personal gain and greed to take away the Patriotic Front,” he said.
He said the PF was not for sale to the highest bidder and as a party, the PF would remain true to Mr Sata’s dreams.
He said after Mr Sata’s demise, the mission of the PF would remain the same as before, to free people from all forms of poverty and the struggle to better Zambia would continue.
“Let us unite and love one another even more now that we have lost our president,” said Mr Lungu as he fought off a flood of emotions.
The AU chairperson urged Zambia to keep the peace.
She appealed for a smooth transition, committing the support of the AU through the transition period.
President Mugabe lamented the death of President Sata whom he said belonged not only to the people of Zambia but to the people of Zimbabwe, the people of SADC and the people of Africa as a whole.
He said Mr Sata was a great African man.
He called for the continuation of Mr Sata’s illustrious career.
He equated Zambia and Zimbabwe to a set of Siamese twins with the Zambezi River running between the two countries being the umbilical cord.
Mr Mugabe who is the current Chairperson of SADC said the late Mr Sata had ideas of fostering joint developmental projects among regional states as well as business communities within SADC.
He gave an example of projects like the 20th session of the United Nations World Tourism (UNWTO) General Assembly which was co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe in 2013.
“Let us think in SADC how we can have integrated ventures in terms of constructing roads, railways, bridges, common borders with common border personnel,” he said.
He appealed to Zambia not to despair in the wake of the death of President Sata but strive to walk in his steps and emulate his work.
“His works are there, his love for the poor is there for all to see so follow him,” he said.
He appealed to those in leadership to play their rightful role of leading the country forward rather than delve on personal interests.
He urged the Government should strive to meet and fulfill the needs of the people, saying all people were equal and the work of every party that assumed power was to work for all people with equality.
Acting President Guy Scott concluded the mass by briefly outlining his
job description in coming weeks.
“My job for Zambia is to ensure that in 80 days you have a new president, peace and prosperity,” he said.
As all these gallant men and women shared the loss of Mr Sata with the family of the late president as well as the people of Zambia, the works of Mrs Sata and what he stood for have united to inspire the country to embrace the hopes and ideas of a new dawn.
Times of Zambia
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