Zambia’s information minister says President Michael Sata is on a working holiday visit to Israel aimed at attracting Israeli investors. Mwansa Kapeya dismissed media reports that the trip was designed so that Sata could get medical care for an undisclosed ailment.
Opposition groups say Sata’s last few public appearances have shown him frail and tired and that he has a history of seeking medical treatment abroad.
But Kapeya insists the trip is all about getting investors interested in Zambia.
"He has just gone there to woo some investors from that country. It’s a working holiday in fact,” he said. “We are a developing country so when the president travels out, he is there to market Zambia.”
Kapeya says Zambia and Israel have had strong bilateral relations since the southern African country gained independence from former colonial power, Britain.
"The friendship has been cordial since independence. In fact we are an agricultural related country and Israel is also in that line,” he said. “Since the first republic…we were having a lot of Israelis coming to Zambia to move us ahead in terms of pushing agriculture forward, and indeed Israel has been a friend to Zambia since independence.”
But, opposition groups say Sata has no scheduled meetings with Israeli leaders such as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or outgoing Israeli President Shimon Perez. They point out that Perez will be in the U.S. to meet President Barack Obama, during Sata’s visit.
Kapeya maintains that Sata is fit and chaired a cabinet meeting shortly before making the trip to Israel.
"He is on a working holiday in Israel. If he were sick, he wouldn’t have traveled,” said Kapeya. “In fact just last week Monday he chaired the usual cabinet meeting and before he left I was with him talking to him and we were always talking about developmental issues in the country.
Citing security concerns, Kapeya declined to say how long Sata will be out of the country. He chose Justice Minister, Wynter Kabimba to act as president during his absence.