Zambian government confirms 77-year-old president died of undisclosed illness with wife and son by his side
The Zambian president, Michael Sata, has died in London where he was being treated in a private hospital for an undisclosed illness, the Zambian government has confirmed.
Sata died shortly after 11pm on Tuesday at London’s King Edward VII hospital, the cabinet secretary Roland Msiska said in a statement.
Sata’s wife, Christine Kaseba, and his son, Mulenga Sata, were at the 77-year-old president’s side when he died, Msiska said.
The statement said: “It is with a very heavy heart that I address you today, to inform the nation that our beloved president and leader, His Excellency Mr Michael Chilufya Sata, has passed on.
“President Sata’s demise is deeply regretted. During this difficult period, I urge all of you to remain calm, united and peaceful.”
Under Zambia’s constitution the country will have to hold an election for a new leader within 90 days of the death of the president.
Sata, 77, left Zambia for medical treatment on 19 October accompanied by his wife and family members, according to a brief government statement that gave no further details.
There had been no official update on his condition and the acting president, Edgar Lungu, led celebrations last week to mark the landlocked nation’s 50th anniversary of independence from Britain.
Concern over Sata’s health has been mounting in Africa’s second-largest copper producer since June when he disappeared from the public eye without explanation and was reported to be getting medical treatment in Israel.
He missed a scheduled speech at the UN general assembly in September amid reports that he had fallen ill in his New York hotel. A few days before that he had attended the opening of parliament in Lusaka, joking: “I am not dead.”
Sata had not been seen in public since he returned to Zambia from New York in late September.
The prime minister of Uganda, Ruhakana Rugunda, and the president of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud, were among the first world leaders to express their condolences.
Later, Britain’s foreign secretary, Philip Hammond, paid tribute to Sata.
In a statement he said: “[Sata] played a commanding role in the public life of his country over three decades, as governor of Lusaka, as the holder of several ministerial positions in the 1990s, as the main opposition leader, and finally as president.