, LUSAKA, Zambia, Oct 30 – Zambia holds a second day of mourning Thursday for president Michael Sata, who died in a London hospital, as his deputy Guy Scott becomes, pending elections, Africa’s first white leader since South Africa’s apartheid era.
US President Barack Obama led the international condolences, while urging the southern African nation to conduct “a peaceful constitutional transition of power as the country moves forward during this time of sorrow”.
Even though officials had long denied he was sick, Sata, 77, died Tuesday while undergoing treatment in London’s private King Edward VII hospital for an unspecified illness, the Zambian government reported.
Sata, nicknamed “King Cobra” for his sharp rhetoric, died only days after Zambia celebrated half a century of independence.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was “saddened” by the news of Sata’s death and noted “Zambia’s long record of smooth and orderly presidential transitions”.
Officials had long denied Sata was sick, even prosecuting journalists who questioned his long “working vacations” to Israel and elsewhere.
Some Zambians responded to the news by asking why he died in an upscale foreign hospital and expressed anger over government secrecy, including claims he was going to London for a check-up.
“They were cheating,” said Mundia Akapelwa, a young mother visiting Lusaka’s Soweto market.