Zambia’s opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) will this week petition the Cabinet to constitute an independent team of medical doctors to determine the health condition of President Michael Sata, according to the party’s Deputy Secretary General Kuchunga Simusamba.
“We have called for this because on several instances the president has failed to appear on scheduled and advertised government programs, and there was no government explanation,” said Simusamba. “More seriously now, his party, the Patriotic Front (PF) factions are beginning to emerge, and his defense minister told the nation that these factions are as a result of the uncertainty of the president’s health.”
Simusamba says the party is also mulling over a legal challenge option, if Zambia's Cabinet refuses to assemble the medical inquiry board.
“Many of [Sata’s] senior Cabinet ministers believe that he will not make it to 2015, and so they are positioning themselves to take over the reins of the presidency,” said Simusamba. “That is the reason why we have called for the inquiry or we have invoked Article 36 of the constitution so that his health can be ascertained.”
Some media outlets as well as social media platforms have speculated about the president’s failing health.
But, Cabinet Minister Fackson Shamenda dismissed the opposition demands saying, “It is cruel to continue wishing the head of state such calamities.” Simusamba disagreed, saying the UPND’s demand is rooted in Zambia’s constitution.
“Article 36 of the constitution, which says when we are in doubt of the capacity or incapacity of the president, we can invoke this particular article so that a medical board can be constituted to assess the lack of capacity of the president,” said Simusamba.
He says the government is to blame for the questions and speculations about the president’s health.
“The president has been sneaking out of the country several times. [He] has not announced his departure, and all we hear is that he is in some other countries going for medical examination,” said Simusamba. “This thing is fueling speculation, as to whether the president is in good health. I think that it will rest this argument to constitute this board. This is not wishing him ill, this will clear this argument once and for all.”
Some supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front say the opposition demand is yet another political stunt to distract the government’s efforts to improve the lives of citizens.
Analysts say it is unlikely Zambia's Cabinet will assemble a medical team to investigate the president’s health. But Simusamba says his party will consider a legal challenge if the government refuses to abide by the constitution.
“We have that option of moving [to] the courts and seeking judicial review over the decision of Cabinet. And this coming week we will be writing to [the] Cabinet to make this thing official, we shall give them a time frame to do it and if they do not, then we shall move to the court to compel them to have this thing done,” said Simusamba.
Clottey interview with Kuchunga Simusamba, UPND deputy secretary