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February 10, 2014

Zambian Official Criticizes Opposition Over President’s Health Issue

by Peter Clottey

Zambia’s information minister says some opposition leaders want to score “cheap political points” over whether President Sata traveled abroad for medical treatment.

Opposition leaders are demanding to know where President Sata went after government officials said he was going on a two-week working vacation following a summit in Ethiopia.

Mwansa Kapeya says the issue of the President’s health should not be used for political reasons. 

“It is very unfortunate that some Zambians who behave in a  very unchristian way, because you start talking about someone’s  health it clearly shows that there is something wrong in you as a human being,” said Kapeya. “It worries everybody the kind of politicking that some of the politicians are engaging in. It is a pity that we can go to that level of thinking.”

Zambian media, however, reported that Mr. Sata went to India and subsequently to the United Kingdom to seek medical attention before returning home. This prompted the opposition to demand answers about his health condition.       

Zambian media quoted Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) as saying

“As a matter of clarity, to be sick is normal and is human. No one should get too sensitive and emotional about it especially when one is a public servant. It is on record that Mr. Sata and some of his friends used to mock the late President Mwanawasa, Vice President George Kunda and Mr. Anderson Mazoka when they were unwell,” said Hichilema adding Mr. Sata called for a medical board to examine the health of the then sitting President Mwanawasa. “He called the late George Kunda red lips, to mention just a few examples. This is sad and unacceptable in a civilized society,” said Hichilema.

Opposition leaders say Zambians should know whether or not Sata is medically fit to hold office.  They say Zambians should be told when their leader goes abroad to seek medical care if only to include him in their prayers.

Information Minister Kapeya says Zambians know full well that the opposition leaders are just playing politics with the health of the president.

“It is the first time that one opposition political party is behaving in such manner. It’s a strange culture that we are witnessing in Zambia….You fail to understand the kind of thinking that we have in some politicians in this country,” said Kapeya.

Kapeya also rejected criticism that administration officials often seek medical attention in first class health institutions abroad.

“We have a big hospital and there is a special wing called the fast track whereby we [ministers] fall sick that is where we go to,” said Kapeya.
Clottey interview with Mwansa Kapeya, Zambia's information minister