Dailies focus on President Sata’s health, illegal land allocation – PANA

Sata in Amsterdam en route to Brussels
Sata in Amsterdam en route to Brussels

(PANA) – As the media in Zambia this week focused on President Michael Sata’s trip to Israel, most of the leading newspapers, with the exception of the Daily Nation, however, avoided commenting on the confusion surrounding the trip and speculation building up on the health of the President, who is believed to be receiving medical treatment.

Instead, they played up illegal land allocation in the country.

Government through the Ministry of Information only announced on Sunday, two days after President Sata had left the country, that he was in Israel on a working holiday. 

However, the international media, including those in Israel, have reported that President Sata is in Israel getting medical care for an undisclosed ailment.

“The confusion that has characterized the latest trip that President Sata has undertaken to Israel should be avoided if Zambians are to stop speculating.

“Why is it that the President’s men and women forgot to issue a statement on the whereabouts of Mr Sata, a task which was only done two days later by the Ministry of Information,” the privately-owned Daily Nation questioned in an editorial.

“Is it not surprising that the people who guard the President did not know that he was out of the country and continued to position themselves at the main gate of State House.

“We agree with Defence Minister Edgar Lungu that mistakes can be made but our take is that this could be happening because of the secrecy surrounding the trips of the President. The strange culture the Patriotic Front government has adopted of not informing Zambians about President Sata’s trips abroad has created unnecessary speculations and rumours,” the paper stated.

“On Saturday, the country woke up to a flood of online media speculation that President Sata had left the country for several destinations and it took government more than 24 hours to issue a statement informing Zambians that, in fact, the Head of State had arrived in Israel.”

The Daily Nation commended the administration of South Africa for the manner which they have handled the medical challenges of their President, Jacob Zuma.

The paper noted that the Government of South Africa had been open about the health challenges of their President and did not wait for speculation before informing its citizens about the health status President Zuma.

“If anything, senior cabinet colleagues, upon noticing the condition of Mr Zuma, asked him to to take a rest and he obliged by seeking medical attention. Subsequently, President Zuma was admitted to hospital,” the paper observed.

It said the South African government had not shied away from the scrutiny of the public eye over the health problems of their Head of State and that this was because the Government knew that it was difficult to hide information about how their President was doing medically.

“They also know that leaving the medical problems of the Head of State to speculations had negative consequences for the country.”

The paper also noted that on his part, President Zuma had since transferred most of his presidential duties to his deputy, Cyril Ramaphosa, who was now handling most of the functions that could ordinarily be discharged by the President.

“This could not have been easy had the office of the Presidency hidden the medical,” the Daily Nation said, adding that Africa should run away from the culture of secrecy and start facing the medical problems afflicting their Heads of State with the boldness they deserved.

The paper said listening to Vice President Guy Scott’s statement in Parliament on President Sata’s secret trip to Israel and his responses to points of clarification, it was convinced that nothing will come out of the Patriotic Front (PF) government to clear mounting speculation.

“Why was it difficult for the Vice President to tabulate President Sata’s itinerary while in Israel if indeed Dr Scott was privy to the invitation extended to our Head of State by that country?

“Is it not surprising that Dr Scott failed to inform the House about Mr Sata’s programme in Israel and when it is coming to an end?” the paper asked.

“The problem with half-truths and untruths is that they have short legs and this is what is happening in the PF administration.”

And commenting on the illegal land allocation, the state-run Times of Zambia said the establishment of an inter-ministerial task force to resolve this problem, should raise people’s hopes that illegalities in land allocation, which had been rampant country-wide, would soon be a thing of the past. 

To curb the high prevalence in the illegal acquisition of land in the country, government has established an Inter-ministerial task force looking into illegal land allocation and acquisition which will start to monitor the vice.

The Times of Zambia said the development, announced on Monday by Home Affairs Minister Ngosa Simbyakula, was testimony that there was political will by the authorities to stop the scourge. 

“If effectively executed, the move is likely to also change the negative public perception of councils which, by virtue of being agencies of the Lands Ministry, are believed to be in the forefront of illegal land allocation,” the Times of Zambia stated.

It noted that there were some individuals masquerading as party cadres from the ruling party who involved themselves in this illegality, while others were just conmen who posed as agents of individual plot vendors. 

“This task force’s mandate is to deal with law breakers in land allocation and acquisition with a view to nipping the scourges in the bud. We just hope all Zambians will support this initiative,” the paper said.

The privately-owned Daily Nation said it was heartening to hear government declaring war against illegal land acquisition and allocation in the country.

“It is without doubt that the high prevalence of illegality and lawlessness in land allocation and acquisition has become a threat to law and order in the country and we hope into believing that is not political rhetoric meant to hoodwink Zambians and land owners that government was serious about fighting the vice,” the paper charged. 

The task force has been given the mandate to prosecute perpetrators of illegal land allocation and acquisition. The paper said it was its hope that there shall be no legal impediments to this because land was not only a factor of production but had over the years been the cause of serious civil conflicts in many countries.

“At the rate things have been going in Zambia, the scourge was slowly becoming a risk to the country’s peace, tranquility and political stability because the perpetrators of the vice were often political cadres,” the Daily Nation added.

-0- PANA MM/MA 28June2014