Zambia bids final goodbye to Michael Sata

The body of Michael Sata enters the stadium
The body of Michael Sata enters the stadium

Zambians are paying their final respects to President Michael Sata with a funeral procession in the capital Lusaka getting under way.

Al Jazeera’s Tania Page, reporting from Lusaka, said heads of states from across Africa were in attendance at Tuesday’s funeral. Sata’s body has been lying in state since it was returned from London last month.

“[But] today belongs to the people of Zambia, to say farewell to the man who was known as the “King Cobra” for his sharp tongue,” our correspondent said.

On Monday. Zambia held a final requiem service for Sata ahead of his burial.

Religious leaders from different faith groups led prayers in parliament, in a ceremony attended by diplomats and politicians, including the country’s founding president Kenneth Kaunda and Sata’s predecessor Rupiah Banda.

The public had until Sunday been streaming in to view the body of the 77-year-old leader who died on October 28 in a London hospital while undergoing treatment for an undisclosed illness.

Confusion over successor

“His wish and desire was to develop this country. His wish and desire was to bring economic development,” said Bishop Alick Banda.

Banda called on the country’s new leader to fulfil Sata’s wish of enacting a new constitution, a process which has been marked by delays.

Sata had promised to deliver a new draft in the run up to his election in 2011.

Sata is Zambia’s second leader to die in office after Levy Mwanawasa’s death in France in 2008.

Vice President Guy Scott has taken over as acting president until an election is held within 90 days.

Our correspondent said it was still unclear who the successor would be and that the confusion had thrown the competition wide open.

Scott – born of British parents and Africa’s first white leader since South Africa’s apartheid era – cannot run because Zambia’s constitution bars candidates of direct foreign lineage.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies