Government says there was communication break down over the absence of President Michael Sata at State House on Saturday hence the presence of Zambia Army sentries at the main gate.
Defence Minister Edgar Lungu told the Daily Nation in a telephone interview that it was miscommunication which resulted in the failure to inform the authorities in charge of sentries that the Head of State was out of the country.
Mr Lungu has since advised Zambians to desist engaging themselves in rumours and that it was not true that sentries were at the State House main gate to deceive the people on the whereabouts of President Sata.
“Ordinarily, those sentries were not supposed to be there and after it was brought to my attention on Saturday, I also inquired from the Secretary to Cabinet and the officers were removed.
“Why are people making a story out of this? It is just a communication lapse? There is no issue, after all an official statement was issued yesterday and we all know that the President is out of the country,” he said.
Mr Lungu said the programmes of the Presidency were not handled by the Ministry of Defence but Cabinet Office.
He said it was untrue that government was trying to blindfold Zambians about the whereabouts of Mr Sata by keeping the guards at the main gate of State House.
Some Zambians have complained about the failure of the PF administration to tell them about President Sata’s trips abroad.
But acting Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Mwansa Kapeya has advised Zambians against listening to gossip and rumours being peddled about President Sata’s trip to Israel.
He said the government’s statement on the matter was the only official position.
While government has stated that President Sata was on a working holiday in Israel, the family of the Head of State has stated that Mr Sata had been persuaded to consider taking a holiday after working for two and half years without rest.
Mr Kapeya said the President was not a family property but a national asset and therefore it was the responsibility of government to inform the nation about his travels and other matters that were important for citizens to know.
“Who would you want to trust between a government statement coming through me or an individual? No one should give you a statement on President Sata’s working holiday to Israel apart from government. So any other statement from individuals should not considered official. Genuine and official statements can only come from government. But Zambians have the right to talk because this is a democratic country and we cannot stop people from talking,” Mr Kapeya said.
Luapula permanent secretary Chanda Kasolo who is Mr Sata’s relative on Sunday told the Daily Nation that the Head of State’s family persuaded the President to take leave from duty.
Meanwhile, All People’s Congress (APC) party president Nason Msoni has challenged Government to state clearly what was happening in the Presidency instead of issuing conflicting statements to the nation.
Mr Msoni challenged Government to issue a comprehensive statement on the health of President Sata.
He said the PF would be doing a great favour to the nation if they informed the nation about the health of Mr Sata.
“I challenge the PF to own up and stop the speculations going on in the country by stating the actual state of President Sata’s health.
“The PF is being irresponsible in the manner it is managing matters surrounding President Sata’s health. It was just yesterday in your paper you reported Mr. Sata’s family member Chanda Kasolo as having said that family members have convinced the Head of State to take a holiday,” he said.
And Alliance for Better Zambia president Frank Bwalya has accused government of failing to manage President Sata.
Father Bwalya said it was shocking how Cabinet and the PF had failed to handle the well-being of the President.
He said it was time the PF leadership considered the health of the President by allowing him to go on leave rather than making him do strenuous activities.
And civil rights activist Brebner Changala has appealed to government to avoid subjecting the country to speculation because President Sata was not an ordinary citizen but a national asset whose whereabouts should never be a secret to Zambians.
Mr Changala said it was only proper that the authorities issued a statement every time the head of State was out of the country to avoid unnecessary rumours.
“Mr Sata should not be treated as PF property but as President of the people of Zambia and whose proper whereabouts must be always communicated to the nation,” said Mr Changala.