Government has finally broken its silence on the whereabouts of President Michael Sata saying the Head of State is in Israel and had left Justice Minister Wynter Kabimba as acting President.
Ordinarily, it had been Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda or Defence Minister Edgar Lungu who acted each time President Sata had travelled out of the country.
On Saturday, the country woke up to a flood of online media speculation that President Sata had left the country while others speculated that the Head of State was in London.
But yesterday, acting Information and Broadcasting Minister Mwansa Kapeya announced that the President had travelled to Israel on a working holiday.
Mr Kapeya said President Sata arrived in the Israeli capital Tel Aviv at the invitation of that country’s outgoing President Shimon Perez but did not state for how long the Head of State would be out of the country.
He said in a statement that while in Israel, President Sata would among other important engagements hold meetings with Mr Perez and his senior government officials.
He said President Sata who is accompanied by First Lady Christine Kaseba and other senior government officials was received by Zambia’s honorary consular to Israel, Ronit Hershkovits.
But the MMD said government was confusing the nation by issuing conflicting statements about the whereabouts of President Sata and has demanded that Vice-President Guy Scott should issue a comprehensive statement on the health of the Head of State.
MMD national secretary Muhabi Lungu said while government had issued a formal statement about President Sata’s trip to Israel, family members were on record that they had to convince the Head of State to take a rest from strenuous presidential functions.
Mr Lungu wondered why government and President Sata’s family were giving conflicting statements on why the Head of State was not in the country.
He said while Zambians wanted the best for President Sata, government was deliberately creating room for dangerous speculation by announcing the arrival of the Head of State in a foreign country without informing Zambians about his departure.
He said what was most shocking was that the State House sentries at the main entrance were still there when it had been the tradition that each time the President left the country, they would also move from the gate.
“Government has announced that President Sata has arrived in Israel but as a country, we should have been informed about his departure. How does the President sneak out of the country and we are only told he has arrived in some foreign country? In fact we have conflicting statements from government and the family members of Mr Sata. Mr Chanda Kasolo on Saturday informed the country that the family had convinced Mr Sata to take a holiday and Mr Kapeya is saying he is on a working holiday. This is confusing the nation,’ Mr Lungu said.
Mr Lungu wondered why President Sata had gone to Israel for a working holiday when he was expected to be in Equatorial Guinea for the African Union summit that opens on Wednesday next week.
He said the MMD was hopeful that all was well with President Sata and advised government to stop creating room for rumour mongering about the Head of State’s health.
And Mr Kasolo when contacted confirmed that it was the family’s proposal that President Sata should consider taking a holiday because he had been working without rest since entering State House.
Mr Kasolo said President Sata went through strenuous campaign trails while in opposition and that he had not rested from presidential functions since then.
He said the family was happy that President Sata had gone for a holiday so that he could come back fresh and strong to continue with his work.
“As you well know, the President has been working for the last two and half years without rest. He campaigned vigorously and after winning the elections, he got down to work and has never rested. So as a family, we encouraged him to go for a holiday and we are happy that he considered our proposal,” Mr Kasolo said.