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Ambassador: Zambia's Sata a Visionary

Zambia's Sata a Visionary, Ambassador Says
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Zambian President Michael Sata, who died last week, was a visionary leader, the country's ambassador to the United States has told VOA.

Ambassador Palan Mulonda said Sata's passion for his work and the country was demonstrated by the unprecedented development in infrastructure, education and health care that occurred during the three years he held office.

As tributes continued to pour in for the country’s leader, Mulonda said that Sata, once known as "King Cobra," would be remembered as a leader who associated himself with the underprivileged. Sata was a man of action, Mulonda said, noting that “several parts of the country have been opened that were not accessible before he took office."

The progress was made under Link Zambia 8000, a road construction project that Sata launched. The roads to be built or upgraded will connect to 650 clinics under construction, making health care accessible in rural Zambia.

As Zambians await elections in 90 days, as stipulated in the constitution, Mulonda said Vice President Guy Scott is well-suited for the position of interim president. He said Scott was not new to Zambian politics and had served in other governments. Scott was one of the founders of the late president’s Patriotic Front political party and has an impressive track record, Mulonda said.

Mulonda said Zambia is a constitutional democracy that harbors many races. Skin color has never been a factor in his country, he said, insisting that “we are a multiracial society, of course predominantly black." He noted that Scott, who is white, formerly represented a predominantly black rural constituency in parliament. Scott later ran for parliament representing central Lusaka, a part of the city that has a very high black population, and he won again, Mulonda said.

Mulonda told VOA what matters is the individual, "for us, we respect human dignity, humanity and what humanity can do for society.”

Scott, 70, a University of Cambridge-educated economist born to Scottish parents, is ineligible to run for the presidency in the upcoming elections because, although he was born in Zambia, his parents were not.

Sata had been sick for some time before his death. Responding to critics who said the handling of the president's health was not transparent, Mulonda said there was a lot of speculation on the subject, but Sata had a right to privacy. He also said Sata was never ill to the point of being incapacitated.

As a democracy, Mulonda said, Zambia has, "as one of our pillars, the rule of law. Should a situation arise of incapacity, we have sufficient legislation and systems to deal with it.

"What I want to underscore here is that the system, as it were, has sufficient provision to manage a situation that would arise should a president become incapacitated by reason of health. And the provisions that were there did not warrant that to happen, because the president was actually working, and we say so because we have [been] working with him.”

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    Mariama Diallo

    Mariama Diallo is a senior reporter covering national and world affairs for Voice of America in multiple languages. She was recently the VOA acting bureau chief for the agency's West Africa office. 

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