An Open Letter to Dr. Christine Mwelwa Kaseba


Kuli ba Mama Kaseba:

Intanshi mutende!

Before I proceed any further, let me state out-rightly what this letter is not about. As a person who strongly believes in women’s rights, I must commend your decision to stand as presidential candidate within days of burying your spouse. Indeed, every woman must aspire to provide leadership to this great country. Your ambition therefore should be encouraged. I also should assure you that your decision to stand has somehow provided that needed courage for all women all over Zambia. Indeed, there is no minimum time required for mourning. There is no one-way of mourning our beloved ones. Usually, traditions have been used to shackle good women, especially after the death of their spouses. Your bravery to provide your candidacy for consideration, therefore, should be commended. I therefore do not condemn you for taking this courageous step. You have done well. I want to live in a Zambia where women will indeed have the liberty to make decisions based on what they feel is right. The time should come when women should stand against traditions that have the potential to subjugate. As a spouse, you have a say in the way you want to mourn or not mourn the departed. While it is true that it has only been a week since your spouse was put to rest, we should commend you for wanting to carry on the legacy that he left behind. And in your own way you have chosen to continue the legacy. And that Ba Mfumu is where I find the problem.

Kanabesa, the reign of your late husband was controversial for our country.  Your spouse presided over a nation that has emerged more tribal and more nepotistic than any other president that has ruled our country. In three years we have accumulated more kaloba in billions of dollars. If this were the legacy you want to carry on, I would ask you to re-examine your heart and think again. Zambians are not naïve; we have seen how that the Zambian diplomatic corps now comprise your relatives and those of your late husband. Surprisingly, there are a number of diplomats whose only credential is that there were at one time very close personal friends of your spouse. I believe that part of the diplomatic corps should be scared now that you are aspiring to replace President Sata. But there is another cadre of diplomats that your candidacy will protect – your relatives and those of President Sata. If you say that this is the legacy you want to carry on, I should be the first one to state that please Ba Mfumu reexamine your decision.

Dr. Christine Mwelwa Kaseba

Dr. Christine Mwelwa Kaseba

From the civil service to the army, and parastatal organs, your relatives have greatly benefited from you being First Lady. Ba Mfumu your actions while First Lady in looking out only for the interest of your family creates reasonable suspicion in my heart that you do not mean well for the future of our country. Do not get me wrong. You do seem to be a great woman. You are educated. You do have a great experience as a medical doctor serving the needs of our poor at the University Teaching Hospital. But when we look at the government and see how many of your bululus are in office, it darkens our hearts and makes us wonder whether your reign will be any different from that of your late husband. As Laura Miti has rightly put it: “I just don’t want anyone from the Sata family. We need to dismantle the nepotistic edifice built in the state by the Sata presidency.”

Michael Chilufya Sata

Michael Chilufya Sata

When your husband was ill, we all saw that he had lost weight and that he was not alert at all. He was visibly sick, very sick. We meant well when we asked that your family consider withdrawing him from power so that he could concentrate on getting better. Who knows? May be he could have lived a little longer had he been away from the pressures of the State office. But our advice was met by repeated injury from yourself and those in his government. Even when he was addressing parliament, as frail as he was, the images of your beaming smile has despoiled our memory. We knew there was something wrong. But your smile tried to cover it all. You should not be blamed for the actions of your spouse, but it certainly creates questions in some of us to wonder what really was going on. As a spouse, were you complacent in keeping your husband going even when he had no capacity to provide leadership to our country? Now that you are aspiring to lead our country, it is in good conscience that we should ask these questions.

I am Ushi from Milenge, and as a people from the pedicle, we all know how widows become the first suspects after their spouses have died. That tradition is deplorable and we must condemn it. We should preside upon families to treat widows with all dignity and respect. As the Glorious Band sang in “Isambo Lya Mfwa”, it is unfair to heap the blame on the widows. That being the case, ba mfumu, we have a few questions that need answering considering that you are putting your name forward.

Obviously, we cannot insist on traditions now, when during illness our calls for humanity and Ubuntu were rebuffed. We cannot insist on a period of mourning now, when even at the time that Michael Chilufya Sata was visibly sick and incapacitated, all we saw was a cadre of people wanting to continue profiteering from the palms of a sick man.

I do not have confidence in your candidature. Your desire is to continue with the same legacy of corruption, nepotism and tribalism started by your spouse. You do not provide anything new and your time at State House as a spouse of President Sata inspires little confidence. You are a woman nevertheless and in a country that has been destroyed by men in power, it might be a source of relief to have a woman in power. But I really doubt if this woman should be you.

For now, I wish you well and hope that all goes well with you and yours. But please if you get elected to the presidency stop nepotism and tribalism and please help Zambia reduce on its appetite for “kaloba”.

Napwa Niine,


MMD Adopts Nevers Mumba for upcoming presidential by-election

This is a statement issued by the MMD Secretariat and Media Team today, November 16 2014

Nevers Sekwila Mumba

Nevers Sekwila Mumba

The Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) has unanimously adopted MMD President Dr Nevers Sekwila Mumba as its candidate for the upcoming presidential by-election. After a lengthy meeting that started in the late afternoon on Sunday the 16th of November 2014 and ended almost at midnight, the MMD National Executive Committee (NEC) resolved that Dr Mumba was the duly elected MMD president and as such is the automatic candidate for any presidential election.

The NEC had met to consider this matter among other items that included the MMD’s participation in the upcoming by-election, resource mobilization and the possibility of making alliances with other opposition political parties. The NEC has given a full mandate to the president to investigate possible election alliances and to consider what role former president Rupiah Banda would be best suited for in the run up to the by-election.

The MMD constitution does not provide for another election during the time there is a sitting president, nor does it allow the NEC to overturn the decision of the MMD National Convention which was last held in May 2012 and saw Dr Mumba elected by 70% of the vote in the second round of an election that used the 50%+1 system.

Grieving the Cobra: Mourning President Michael Chilufya Sata

E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.

Michael Chilufya Sata

Michael Chilufya Sata

The passing of President Sata has been devastating to the nation. But while the nation mourns, we should never forget that the President was a father, a spouse, a grandfather, an uncle and a close relative to some citizens among us. The loss that these relatives have suffered is surely personal, deep and disheartening. Relatives and close friends are shedding inconsolable tears, weeping and mourning this loss. Indeed, while political cadres are busy beating each other up and causing confusion, we must never forget that, there is a tangible family grieving. In this period, we need to give the respect due to the First Lady and her family. During this difficult time, we must sympathise, empathize and share in the sorrow of this loss. It is not time for politicking.

Just as Hakainde Hichilema has said, the time for politicking will come. This time, we must exercise utmost grace to each other as we mourn. Acting President Guy Scott and Secretary General of the Patriotic Front Edgar Lungu have now signed a joint statement assuring the nation that they will behave themselves properly as we go through this mourning period. We must commend these two gentlemen and all the people that surround them for coming up with a ceasefire while the nation goes through this difficult time. It would be ridiculous for these guys to be “hiring” and “firing” each other while the body of the late Michael Sata lies in state at Mulungushi. Indeed, politicians must not turn this personal loss of the Sata family into a hive of “pangas” and “chipaye”. President Sata should be mourned in peace, tranquility and respect. He really deserves that.

Signing President Sata's book of condolences at Mr & Mrs Mate's residence in Cochrane, AB, Canada

Signing President Sata’s book of condolences at Mr & Mrs Mate’s residence in Cochrane, AB, Canada

Each of the late president’s relative or close friends will deal with this loss differently. Grief is very personal in many respects. No one should dictate to another how he or she should mourn his or her father, uncle, or grandfather. There is no one-way of mourning the late President Michael Sata. As such, the period of mourning itself should be an exercise in tolerance and patience. Relatives and close friends should know that the nation joins them in this loss. A grief psychologist Kubler-Ross has identified five stages that are typical during the time of loss. On average each person undergoing grief goes through these stages. The first stage is denial. Usually, when we receive sad news, the first reaction we lean towards is to deny it. We don’t want to hear the desolate news. There are many in the nation and indeed in the family that at first experienced denial. It is very normal to undergo this stage. When the news is very sad, it is a human reaction to want to deny its reality.

1937 to 2004

1937 to 2004

The second stage of grief is anger. Anger can come in different ways. It could come from a spouse who feels like she did not do enough. It could come from a relative who feels there might have been a better way to handle the loss. Anger could from children who feel like it did not have to be. During loss, like the nation is experiencing right now, it is easy to plunge into anger. In some instances, family members, in anger, begin to blame each other for their loss. Very often, a widow gets blamed for her spouse’s death even if she had no hand in it. This is not fair. While, it is normal for a grieving person to be angry, one thing we should never allow is to let anger lead to irrational and unfair choices. Anger is a powerful human emotion. It is a part of our humanity. During loss, it would be perfectly all right to experience this emotion. However, after we have experienced anger, we should transform it into something meaningful. The greatest respect we can give to the memory of President Sata is to transform the anger, arising from the loss, to something more positive for the nation and the family.

The third stage in the grieving process is bargaining. In grief, the bargaining stage is where one begins to “bargain” within themselves. They begin to try and soften the pinch of loss or death. At this stage, most people begin wishing something could be done about the loss. For Christians, they begin giving God conditions. They feel and think in terms what-ifs. The bargaining stage is where one begins entertaining the idea of a “resurrection”. It is a stage of wishing the departed would come back. When bargaining, a person experiencing loss could even decide to give up something valuable in the hope that doing so would make God change his mind and restore the loss.

The fourth stage is depression. The depression stage is where “we feel sad” about the loss. Here grief takes us to the level where nothing can sooth. The depression stage is that stage of loss where no one can see or feel. It is a personal stage. No one can really know how painful your loss is. Each person experiences this stage differently. It is all right to feel sad. We are human after all. We are bound to feel sad. Jesus himself wept at the loss of Lazarus. The children, the spouse, the relatives, and the close friends of the late President should be joined by the nation in feeling sad over this loss.

The Cobra who charmed a nation

The Cobra who charmed a nation

The fifth stage is acceptance. Now this stage is not about feeling that the loss is “okay” but rather feeling that this loss is actually real. In the acceptance stage, the loss event is accepted as valid. You are not trying to deny it exists, but rather you recognize the pain and embrace it. In this stage, you let go and recognize the inevitable. The acceptance stage is the most powerful of all these stages. It is challenging though. It is challenging in the sense that most of us as humans are reluctant to come into terms with our pain. We do not want pain. We do not want to be reminded that the president is no more. But painful as it may be, it is important that we move towards acceptance. Acceptance of loss is epitomized in one Ushi adage which states that “pafwa abantu pashala bantu”. This adage reinforces the idea that those that have lost a father, should take courage in the fact that the father did indeed leave behind warriors to take over from where he left. It is this courage that leads to acceptance of the grief.

Regardless of what we say about loss, however, there will never be a replacement for those that have departed. The pain is real. The loss is painful. But after we have grieved, it will be time to pick up the pieces and try to move on, with hearts still reeling from the pain of the loss. But as a tribute to the life of the departed, we must not give up on life. We must do all we can to make Zambia a better nation for it is through this action that we will truly demonstrate our fidelity to the life and times of Michael Chilufya Sata.

Exclusive: Edgar Lungu’s response to Guy Scott


I have learnt with deep regret the illegal and provocative action taken by Dr. Guy Scott purporting to dismiss me as Secretary General of the Party.
This action is illegal and has no foundation or support of the PF party constitution. But most importantly, Dr. Guy Scott has insulted our culture and the people of Zambia by constantly engaging himself in matters that undermine the dignity, honour and respect of the funeral of President Michael Sata.
I am aware that they are serious maneuvers to reinstate Mr. Wynter Kabimba as Secretary General of the Party. These maneuvers are also designed to undermine the decision made by President Michael Sata on 28th August 2014 and the wishes and interest of the party.
I’m also aware that there is an attempt to usurp state and party powers to a group now commonly known as the ‘’cartel”.
The action by Dr. Guy Scott to illegally assume the office of party president and to pretend to perform such functions therein in the absence of the harmonization of this constitutional conflict, is promoting disharmony.
The two articles are quoted below:
(1) In the event of the President of the Party resigning, or being removed from Office of The President of the Party, he shall cease to be President of the Party and the Secretary General shall act as President of the Party until the new President is elected in accordance with provisions of Article 48 of this Constitution.
• (2) In case of absence of both the President and the Secretary-General of the Party, the President of the Party shall choose one from amongst the members of the Central Committee to perform the functions of the President of the Party until such a time as the President or Secretary General of the Party shall resume his duties.
(1) The Vice President shall have the following powers, duties and functions:
• a) to be the principal assistant to the President of the Party;
• b) to exercise all such functions as may be delegated to him by the President;
• c) to act for the President in his absence;
• d) To exercise the functions of President in case of death or removal from office in terms of Article 53.
I have referred this matter to the Central Committee to consider and resolve.
Article 53 reposes power in the Office of the Secretary General as Acting President of the Party in the event of the absence, resignation or being removed until a new party president is elected.
I am cognizant of the fact that a single section under Article 54 (d) also purports to repose powers in the Vice President to act as Party President when the office party president falls vacant through death.
Owing to this serious lacuna and conflict in the party constitution designating powers and functions of the president to two offices, it is imperative that this matter be urgently resolved by the Central Committee.
I have therefore called for an emergency Central Committee Meeting to be held tomorrow Tuesday 4th November 2014 to consider the following agenda items;
• The purported letter of dismissal
• Taking action which in the opinion of the Central Committee is in the best interest, security and development of the party and the state in accordance with Article 58(l) and 58(m).
• And to resolve matters relating to Article 53 and Article 54
The Central committee has powers to resolve all matters as listed below:
• POWERS AND FUNCTIONS OF THE CENTRAL COMMITTEE The Central Committee shall have the following powers and functions:
• (a) Supervising the implementation of the Party policies and programmes;
• (b) Programming Party policies as formulated by the General Conference or the National Council;
• (c) Enforcing discipline among members and officials of the Party;
• (d) Regulating and controlling activities of all organs of the Party;
• (e) Ensuring that records of all Party activities are kept and supervising proper maintenance of records and books of accounts at all levels of the Party organization;
• (f) Exercising the function of orientation and leadership of the Party;
• (g) Initiating, whenever possible, Party policies for consideration by the National Councilor the General Conference;
• (h) Orientating and controlling activities of the central organs of the State and other public institutions in the country;
• (i) Guiding and giving correct orientation to popular mass organizations;(j) Hearing appeals from appropriate disciplinary bodies;(k) Summoning regular or extraordinary meetings of the National Councilor the General Conference;
• (I) initiating and approving changes in the Regulations and Rules of the Party;
• (m) Taking action which in the opinion of the Central Committee is in the best interest, security and development of the Party and the State;
• (n) Constituting such administrative structures at the Party National Headquarters as may facilitate smooth and efficient functioning of the Party.

I also note that Dr. Guy Scot had on Friday 31st October 2014, announced the banning of meetings including the holding of meetings by the Central Committee.
This action is also illegal as during this difficult and sensitive moment, Dr. Scot is expected to benefit from the wisdom and counsel of the Central Committee and not from strangers and members of the group famously referred to as the “Cartel” currently surrounding him.
Dr. Guy Scott is expected to defend the interest of the Patriotic Front, its values and is expected to adhere to the provisions of the letter and spirit of the party constitution.
I wish to warn all members and party leaders including, Dr. Guy Scott to act with restraint as the nation is in mourning and the body of His Excellency, President Michael Sata is lying in state at Mulungushi International Conference Center as President Sata deserves to be mourned with utmost dignity, peace and respect.
It should be made very clear that our restraint is out of utmost respect for the departed, His Excellency, President Michael Sata, is not a sign of weakness.
The people of Zambia are resolved to safeguard peace during this time of mourning.
Zambia attained its independence to uphold peace, unity and to uphold human dignity and therefore actions spoiling for a political fights runs counter to these values

Hon. Edgar Lungu, M.P

There’s a lot more to Zambia’s new president than his whiteness

Elias Munshya, LLB (Hons), MA., M.Div.:

There’s a lot more to Zambia’s Guy Lindsay Scott

Originally posted on Quartz:

Zambia has always been one of the least reported-on countries in the international press. There’s something about its lack of conflict, regular elections, and no great examples of easy “Africa rising” narratives that gives the country a low profile.

That is, until Wednesday.

With the death of President Michael Sata, Zambia lost an iconic leader. A man that fused populist politics with economic nationalism—who after decades in opposition—was elected to the post by a largely urban, largely poor base.

Sata’s death also unleashed a flood of speculation in both Zambian and international media around the details of succession. But while Zambian media focused on the details and interpretations of the constitution—a 90 day caretaker presidency before a mandated general election—the international buzz was mostly around race. Earlier this month, when Zambian Vice President, Guy Scott, stood in for Sata at the UN General Assembly. The Economist magazine to speculate on whether Scott…

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Answering Misheck Shulumanda on the question of Guy Scott and treason

A gentleman by the name of Micheck Shulumanda has asked a few questions over the propriety of Guy Scott acting as president. He is challenging the use of Article 38 instead of Article 39 when deciding who should act as president. I wish to provide some answers.

  1. If the President appointed Minister of Defense and Justice, and PF Secretary General Hon Edgar Lungu to act under Article 39 (1), on what basis did the Attorney General advice Cabinet that Dr. Guy Scott is the rightful person to Act?

Article 39 operates when a President is alive. Article 38 operates when a President is “dead” and there is a vacancy in the presidency. The death of Michael Chilufya Sata triggered the operation of Article 38 as a vacancy due to death arose.

  1. Why did the Attorney General only rely on Article 38 which deals with vacancy in the office of the Presidency without addressing himself to Article 39 (1) under which Hon. Lungu should have been appointed since the President left the country for medical purposes?

There was no need to address himself to Article 39 because President Sata died. When a President dies, a vacancy in the presidency is declared and that triggers sections of the constitution that deals with a “vacancy”. One such section is Article 38.

  1. Why is it that President Sata never allowed Vice President Guy Scott to act as President if not for the reasons that he was incapable to perform functions of the office of President? Why should he act now that he is dead?

I do not know why President Sata never allowed Scott to act. Guy Scott can act now that President Sata is dead, because as you have said it, he is dead. President Sata and his actions or inactions are never a source of constitutional law in Zambia. The source of Zambia’s constitutional law are as follows: (1) the text of the constitution, (2) the judgements from the Supreme Court and the High Court, (3) unwritten conventions from our English Common law heritage, (4) Acts of parliament. His Excellency President Michael Sata or any president are not a source of Zambia’s constitutional law. Guy Scott is acting now, because there is a vacancy in the presidency on account of the death of an incumbent.

  1. Was President Sata on the wrong side of the law when he asked others to act even when the Vice President was verily available in the country?

This question has no relevance to the matter at hand. The question is not about whether Sata was right or wrong, but rather what should happen in the event that there is a vacancy in the presidency. According to our constitution, the repository of Executive power in the event of a vacancy in Zambia is the Vice-President.

So has, Attorney General Musa Mwenye committed treason? Not a bit.

The Cobra Who Charmed a Nation: The Life and Times of Michael Chilufya Sata

E. Munshya, LLB (Hons), M.Div.

President Sata with President Kenneth Kaunda

President Sata with President Kenneth Kaunda

Michael Chilufya did not have one life. He had many lives. His relatively long life, by Zambian standards, where life expectancy is around 45, mean that there is a huge span from which one could chose his story. Like many of his contemporaries, very little is known of his childhood. Born in 1937, there is very little known about the young Sata except that he was born in Mpika and went to primary school there. Around 1964 during the fight for the country’s independence some accounts situate the young Sata as a constable in the colonial police force. There are some accounts that he spent some years in the United Kingdom after serving as a colonial police officer in the 1960s.

Sata rose to national fame and notoriety when in the late 1970 and early 1980s he emerged as a talkative member of the United National Independence Party (UNIP). This political recklessness did wonders for him. He quickly caught the eye of the then President Kenneth Kaunda who appointed him District Governor of Lusaka and later as Local Government and Rural Development Minister. In many ways, Sata was different from most of his political contemporaries. Most of his colleagues were mostly educated and had stints in the Foreign Service. Sata never had the luxury of the two. He never served in the Foreign Service and his education level remained humble. Nevertheless, in spite of that, he still managed to catch the attention of the nation and that of Kenneth Kaunda. As Lusaka Governor, the tough talking and pragmatic Sata embarked on a modernization program for the city. He presided over the building of the flyover bridges over the town-centre and established a quasi-private company to take care of the water reticulation system in Lusaka. That company has continued to this day.

The Late Michael Chilufya Sata

The Late Michael Chilufya Sata

When in 1991, the dawn of multi-party democracy rose over Zambia, Sata was among some UNIP loyalists who crossed over to the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD) late. As a politically cunning and calculating tactician, Sata chose to remain in UNIP until late so as to perhaps get the best of both worlds. When he joined the MMD, he became an instant hit. At the MMD convention of April 1991 Sata was elected chairman of local government. He pledged his total support for President Chiluba and the two became political confidantes. To be clear, Sata had the political clout of his own within the MMD. In Chiluba’s government Sata served various portfolios. He worked as a Local Government Minister. During his tenure in this portfolio, allegations of corruption surfaced. But was cleared by both his boss and the Anti-Corruption Commission. He also served as Health Minister. Chiluba’s choice of Sata for the health portfolio surprised many because some thought that Sata was not intellectually sophisticated to lead a portfolio that had medical doctors and nurses. But Sata excelled in this ministry. Hospitals became cleaner. Morale among health workers was revamped. The straight talking Sata encouraged nursing schools to admit Enrolled Nurses so that they could become Registered Nurses. Under his watch, he changed nurses’ uniforms to include the wearing of pants. Sata also served in several other portfolios such as Labor and as Minister-Without-Portfolio.

Sata’s politics, however, during the first term of the MMD did have enemies. The most vicious of the fights was between himself and the then Vice-President Levy Mwanawasa. After realizing that he could not break the bond between Sata and Chiluba, Mwanawasa resigned from the vice-presidency citing irreconcilable differences with Michael Sata. For his part, Sata claimed that Mwanawasa was a political novice whose skills were only good for the practice of law and not politics. The resignation of Mwanawasa would see Sata being elevated to more visible status within the party and the government. Indeed, after the 1996 convention, Sata became National Secretary of the MMD. As Chief Executive of the MMD he became the architect of the Chiluba political engineering.

Michael Sata with Hakainde Hichilema

Michael Sata with Hakainde Hichilema

After the 1996 elections, Sata mostly served as a minister-without-portfolio in Chiluba’s cabinet and as the MMD’s Chief Executive. Throughout all this political career, the down-to-earth man of the people image made Sata very popular on the street. He was a lovable character. When speaking to the people, he would use the common language that citizens on the street could understand. He was a constant feature in the media. He was a story maker. Towards the end of Chiluba’s second term, rumours started swirling that Chiluba was interested in going for the third term. For his part, Sata appeared to have been the main architect of this initiative. He advised Chiluba to appoint District Administrators to bring “government close to the people”. Nevertheless it was clear that this initiative was really about the Third Term.

In 2001 when it became clear that Zambians would not support Chiluba’s Third Term bid, Sata had some hope that it was he that the party was going to adopt to succeed Chiluba. Shortly before that, Sata as National Secretary presided over the expulsion of over 50 senior members of the MMD including the country’s vice-president then, Christone Tembo. If there was anyone who was playing his cards well, it was Sata. But Chiluba had other plans. At a party meeting at State House, Chiluba influenced the MMD to pick Levy Mwanawasa out of political retirement to become the party’s candidate. This infuriated Sata. There was no way Sata was going to support his nemesis Mwanawasa as presidential candidate for his MMD. In 2001, Sata broke off from Chiluba, left the government house and formed his own party, naming it the Patriotic Front after Mugabe’s party in Zimbabwe.

Chiluba and Sata - as MMD leaders 1991 to 2002

Chiluba and Sata – as MMD leaders 1991 to 2002

After leaving the MMD, Sata became a fierce critic of both the MMD party and its new president Levy Patrick Mwanawasa. It seems like the old enmity had resurfaced. The politics was brutal. For Sata, Mwanawasa was a cabbage. In his campaign messages, Sata claimed that Mwanawasa was so sick that his mind and his mouth had stopped coordinating. With these attacks against Mwanawasa and the MMD, Sata’s political star started to rise. His anti-capitalist and anti-Chinese messages found a home among the urbanites. His Patriotic Front party started to pick seats in the by-elections the first one being from the Copperbelt. Yamfwa Mukanga won Kantanshi seat with the support of the Cobra. Something happened however, that seemed to have changed the Cobra’s attitude towards Mwanawasa. Having been a strong critic of Mwanawasa, Sata changed after he himself got a heart attack only to be evacuated at midnight by Mwanawasa. When Sata returned to Zambia, he had the change of heart. He met Mwanawasa at State House and from that meeting the two became friends. Sata’s illness and Mwanawasa’s reaction to it had helped these political leaders come to some agreement and cooperation.

When Mwanawasa died in 2008, Sata joined the nation in mourning his friend. However, he quickly found another enemy, the vice-president Rupiah Banda. In the presidential by-election of that year, Sata was brutally defeated. But by this time, it was clear that his political star had only gotten brighter and it was just a matter of time before he would win the presidency. And sure enough, three years later, Michael Chilufya Sata delivered a blistering defeat to incumbent Rupiah Banda becoming Zambia’s fifth president.

There were a lot of expectations on the shoulder of the new leader. But within the first week of winning, Sata went beyond the limit of how many people he could nominate to parliament. He presented ten names instead of eight. He was forced to retract. He appointed a cabinet full of his relatives and fellow tribes mates. What had been an election of hope quickly gave to despair. To invest in infrastructure development, he borrowed heavily from the Eurobonds. And then one year into power, his physical and mental health started to deteriorate. His close confidantes denied that there was any problem. In fact, they said that he was working very hard behind the scenes.

Sata leaves behind a divided party and nation - Munshya

Sata leaves behind a divided party and nation – Munshya

To his credit, in spite of his invisibility, the business of government continued being carried out. The loyalty he commanded seemed surreal both within the party and the government. Reports of his death emerged on several occasions but each time it was rumoured he had died, he would emerge looking stronger than before. On 20th October 2014, he was flown to London for what officials said was going to be a medical review. He died in London on October 28 2014. He was 78. He leaves behind several children. And for sure, he leaves behind a divided party and nation. However, one thing can never be denied of Michael Chilufya Sata: he was the cobra who charmed a nation.


Suggested citation: Munshya, E. (2014). The Cobra Who Charmed a Nation: The Life and Times of Michael Chilufya Sata. Elias Munshya Blog (found at (29 October 2014)