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Zambian president goes AWOL, leaves nation leaderless

Pres. Michael Sata

Pres. Michael Sata

(GIN) — Three weeks ago, Zambian President Michael Sata was airlifted on a plane to Israel. Some reports had him in a coma, and said he was receiving treatment for kidney disease at the Sheba Medical Center there.

The flurry of rumors began to build, neither confirmed nor denied by Sata’s ruling party.

“One minute we are hearing he has arrived home to Lusaka but is very unwell, the next minute we are ‘reliably informed’ he never came back home, followed only hours later by some random, possibly old photos of President Sata celebrating his birthday in good health,” wrote Evans Mulenga, a reporter, in the Zambia Report.

Chilufya Tayali, editor of The Zambian Voice, even claimed to have camped out near the runway at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport at the alleged time of Sata’s return and did not observe any arrival of the presidential aircraft.

“The Post reported the president arrived aboard the Challenger jet at 10 p.m.,” Tayali wrote. “This is a blatant lie and I am here to be challenged on this one. The president did not land (at Kenneth Kaunda airport) because I was there watching the runaway closely.”

“I believe in telling the truth not lies… It is imperative government comes clean and proves that the president is in the country and he is well. Let him come out and assure us he is here (in the country) and leading the nation.

“We have a right to know of his whereabouts and status,” Tayali wrote.

Commentingon zambiareports.com, “Munali”wondered: “According to the Zambian Watchdog, Sata is back, and (Wynter) Kabimba will continue to be acting president. How can the president be back, but someone else continue to exercise his powers and do his job? Is this not odd, is it even legal?

“What is more telling,” he continued, “is as the rumors of his health and whereabouts escalate, the fellow has not said anything to curb them; he has not even issued a picture to prove he is well, or even alive. Something somewhere is not right…”

Silence on Zambia’s presidential mystery has gone global. Despite Zambia’s not insignificant role in the global economy, few if any international media are following the crisis.

Meanwhile, acting president Kabimba has not been just warming the bench for the leader’s return. This week, he took possession of hundreds of acres of land owned by villagers without the consent of traditional leaders.

The move outraged opposition leaders who reminded Kabimba that taking “customary” land by the state requires consultative meetings with the chief and his or her subjects, provincial administration and the councils among other stakeholders. The acting leader rejected the claim.

In an unrelated development, the Mumbai-based CEO of Vedanta Resources, owner of the Konkola Copper Mines in Zambia, is in hot water over a just released video where he’s seen boasting Vedanta made between $500 million and $1 billion every year for nearly a decade from the Zambian interests.

The comments of Anil Agarwal kicked up a storm after the damning video appeared on YouTube. His statement appeared to be at odds with what was previously reported about its financials.

A forensic audit of tax affairs is expected of the Zambian operations.

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