Zambia bids final farewell to president

November 11, 2014 2:43 pm
Zambia's President Michael Sata/AFP
Zambia’s President Michael Sata/AFP

, LUSAKA, November 11- Tens of thousands of Zambians turned out at a state funeral Tuesday to bury president Michael Sata who died at a London hospital two weeks ago.

Mourners packed the capital city’s 50,000 seater Heroes Stadium for a final service before burial at a special graveyard reserved for heads of state.

One of Sata’s sons Gerald, gave his father a moving send off, taking to the microphone to sing “Dance With My Father” by Luther Vandross.

Overtaken by emotion, mourners dressed in black or outfits bearing the late president’s portrait, openly wept as Gerald Sata sang.

Sata died at the age of 77 while undergoing treatment for an undisclosed illness.

He is Zambia‘s second leader to die in office. In 2008 Levy Mwanawasa died in France after an illness.

Sata, nicknamed “King Cobra” for his acerbic tongue, has been replaced by Vice President Guy Scott until an election is held within 90 days of his death.

Scott — born of British parents and Africa’s first white leader since South Africa’s apartheid era — cannot run because Zambia‘s constitution bars candidates of direct foreign lineage.

Sata came to power in 2011 elections on populist promises to transform the copper-rich country within 90 days by tackling corruption, lowering taxes and creating jobs.

But Sata’s critics say that by the time he died the former policeman, trade unionist and taxidermist had transformed into an authoritarian populist as his anti-graft crusade targeted political adversaries.

He made it to the presidency after four attempts at the polls.

Sata who rose from cleaning railway platforms in London to the country’s top job, died after serving three of his five year term.

The funeral is being attended by regional leaders from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Madagascar, Namibia and Mozambique.

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