Lusaka, Zambia – Zambia’s President Michael Sata was given a warm sendoff by mourners at Heroes Stadium yesterday, when he was finally laid to rest at Embassy Park in the capital city, Lusaka.
Sata (77), who died in a London hospital last month, is the second Zambian president to die in office. He had served as the countryâ€™s president for just three years. Sataâ€™s predecessor, Levy Mwanawasa, died in 2011 after nine years at the helm.
While Sata’s succession remains an open and hotly-contested issue, the brash “King Cobra” is remembered by many Zambians and regional leaders as a man of people.
His funeral was attended by up to 50,000 Zambians alongside regional heads of state and dignitaries, including Zimbabweâ€™s President Robert Mugabe and Kenyaâ€™s President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Military officers lead the proceedings, carrying the body of the late President Michael Sata.
Catholic women sing a hymn for Sata.
A Bemba woman from Sata’s tribe sits in the crowd with her head doused in white powder as part of the traditional mourning practice of chimbuya.
Sata’s wife, Christine Kaseba Sata, stands with Zimbabwe’s First Lady, Grace Mugabe.
South Africa’s deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, recieves holy communion. Behind him stands AU chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
Mulenga Sata , Sataâ€™s son and the mayor of Lusaka, pays tribute tohis father. Mulenga is seen as potential candidate for the presidency. An election for a new leader is expected to be held by the end of January.
The front-runner to succeed Sata is Zambiaâ€™s minister of defence and justice, Edgar Lungu, who currently leads the Patriotic Front (PF). The PF is yet to choose a presidential candidate but Lungu is widely seen as the popular choice.
Acting President Guy Scott speaks fondly of Sata, whom he said taught him “everything he knows.” A PF founding member, Scott became interim leader following Sata’s death. Riots broke out in parts of Zambia recently after Scott dismissed Lungu as PF secretary-general.
A member of the military police stands over Sata’s body.
Tendai Marima is a freelance journalist and academic researcher.
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