Zambian president Michael Sata dies at 77

Zambia's President Michael Sata speaks to journalists at the 18th African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa in 2012.

Zambia’s President Michael Sata speaks to journalists at the 18th African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa in 2012.

Zambian President Michael Sata has died in London, where he had been receiving treatment for undisclosed illness, a government source in Africa’s second-largest copper producer said on Wednesday.

The private Muzi television station and the Zambia Reports and Zambian Watchdog websites said the southern African 77-year-old leader died on Tuesday evening at London’s King Edward VII hospital.

“It is true. We lost the President. The acting president will make a statement soon,” the source told Reuters.

Sata is likely to be succeeded on an interim basis by defense minister Edgar Lungu, who stood in recently as president, or vice-president Guy Scott, who would become Africa’s first white head of state since South Africa’s FW de Klerk in 1994.

The constitution says a new presidential election must be held within 90 days, with most analysts saying Scott is unlikely to run because of citizenship restrictions.

The Zambian kwacha was largely unchanged.

“Obviously there will be a sentimental temptation to go long dollars, but I’m also quite confident the central bank will do everything it can to protect the currency,” one Lusaka-based trader said. “In terms of the economy, everything should still be on track.”

Sata left Zambia for medical treatment abroad on Oct. 19 accompanied by his wife and family members, according to a brief government statement at the time that gave no further details.

There was no official update on his condition and Lungu, secretary general of Sata’s Patriotic Front party, had to lead celebrations last week to mark the landlocked nation’s 50th anniversary of independence from Britain.

Concern over Sata’s health had been mounting since June when he disappeared from the public eye without explanation and was then reported to be getting medical treatment in Israel.

He missed a scheduled speech at the U.N. General Assembly in September amid reports that he had fallen ill in his New York hotel. A few days before that, he had attended the opening of parliament in Lusaka, joking: “I am not dead.”

Sata has not been seen in public since he returned to Zambia from New York in late September.

 
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