Zambia’s government on Monday released photographs showing President Michael Sata chairing a cabinet meeting following opposition criticisms that the administration has been hiding the leader’s deteriorating health.
Opposition leader Father Frank Bwalya, a former Catholic priest says the government must tell Zambians the truth about the president’s health following his recent “working trip” to Israel where he is alleged to have sought medical attention for an undisclosed ailment.
Opponents say Sata’s last few public appearances have shown him frail and tired and that he has a history of seeking medical treatment abroad.
“Even a child in the streets does not understand why we have not seen the president in person,” said Bwalya. “And the pictures that they have used they are still pictures. We are not saying the president is sick and dying, all we are saying is that these things do not make sense… now there are rumors that he has even died. The onus is on him to come up in public and say he is well and if he is not well, the people will understand.”
Supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party condemned the opposition criticism saying it is unacceptable for opponents of the president to play politics with his health.
In an interview with VOA, Information Minister Mwansa Kapeya maintained that Sata is fit and chaired a cabinet meeting shortly before making his recent trip to Israel.
“He is on a working holiday in Israel. If he were sick, he wouldn’t have travelled,” 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.”
But opposition leader Bwalya said the refusal of the administration to disclose the president’s health status is a demonstration of poor leadership.
“It’s a blessing in disguise that this has come…so that Zambians can realize that the people that have been governing us from before independence they don’t fit in the current dispensation. And this should be the last time Zambians vote for these kinds of people,” said Bwalya.
PF supporters condemned the opposition for what they say is wishing the president ill will. They said Sata is the president and father of the nation and needs to be treated with respect and decorum as he leads the country.
Bwalya denied opponents of the government wish the president ill will.
“No one in the world died because somebody wished them dead. People die because the time has come for them to die…people die because God says you shall die,” said Bwalya. “Why should they worry when the president is doing the right thing? This people have failed to govern, and they know in this part of the world if you wish another person dead that amounts to witchcraft and people look down on such a person.”
Clottey interview with Father Frank Bwalya, Zambia opposition leader