A SOMBRE atmosphere gripped Lusaka and other parts of the country as the plane carrying the casket of the late President Michael Sata touched down.
People from all walks of life thronged Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (KKIA) to receive the body of the Head of State while several others were glued to their television sets to watch the arrival.
Acting President Guy Scott led cabinet ministers and two former presidents, Kenneth Kaunda and Rupiah Banda in receiving the body which was accompanied by first Lady Christine Kaseba, family members and some cabinet ministers.
The special plane carrying the casket of the late President from London, touched down at KKIA around 10:40 hours where it was greeted with sombre atmosphere.
Security was tight although some cadres marched inside the airport before the arrival of the body eulogising the late president while demanding continuity with his vision.
Air traffic nearly came to a standstill with virtually no aircraft leaving or landing at the international airport during the event.
Mr Sata’s son Mulenga, who is also Lusaka mayor, arrived at the airport earlier on a different aircraft and joined Dr Scott, Defence Minister Edgar Lungu and other cabinet Ministers to receive Mr Sata’s body.
Dr Kaseba, who was seemingly powerless as she emerged from the plane, was helped by Mulenga and Gender Minister Inonge Wina and consoled by former first lady Maureen Mwanawasa.
As the casket emerged from the aircraft, scores of people, some of them on the rooftop of the airport building, wept while others prayed and sung songs of praise for the late leader.
Dr Kaunda and Mr Banda as well as secretary to the Cabinet, Roland Msiska also joined Dr Scott in consoling the first family upon arrival.
UPND leader, Hakainde Hichilema, his counterpart of the MMD Nevers Mumba and All People Congress Party leader Nason Msoni were among opposition party leaders that welcomed the body.
New Revolution Party leader Cosmo Mumba wept uncontrollably and fainted as pallbearers carried the casket from the plane to Acmat, the armoured Zambia army vehicle that drove it to Mulungushi International Conference Centre.
The body was driven on the Zambia Army armoured vehicle while many people including vendors took time off to witness the procession.
Dr Msiska had earlier circulated text messages on mobile phones inviting people to line up along airport road to receive the remains of Mr Sata.
The response was overwhelming as hundreds of people lined up along the road from Zambia Air Force (ZAF) turn-off up to Mulungushi International Conference where the body viewing was done later in the day.
Dr Scott led Dr Kaseba, family members, service chiefs and cabinet ministers as well as former presidents in viewing the body at the MICC.
Mr Sata, 77, died at King Edward VII Hospital, Central London where he had been admitted since leaving Zambia on October 20 to receive treatment. He will be buried at Lusaka’s embassy park on November 11, 2014.
The Government has declared 14 days of national mourning in honour of the late President while tents have been mounted at the show grounds for mourners.
Times of Zambia