LUSAKA (Reuters) - Hundreds of people lined Lusaka’s Great East road on Saturday as the body of Zambian president Michael Sata, who died in London this week, arrived in the country to be burial next week.
There were emotional scenes with several people breaking down as pall bearers carried Sata’s dark casket draped in the Zambian flag off a chartered plane.
The body was driven to the Mulungushi International Conference Center, where a brief wreath-laying ceremony was held.
Sata, who was nicknamed “King Cobra” because of his sharp tongue, died on Tuesday. He had been president of Zambia since 2011. He is expected to be buried on Nov. 11.
“We have been robbed of a great leader,” Richard Banda, 64, said, struggling to hold back tears.
A presidential election is expected to be held within 90 days from Oct. 28 when Sata died at London’s King Edward VII hospital from an undisclosed illness. He had left Zambia on Oct. 19 for medical treatment, accompanied by his wife and family.
Sata’s varied resume included stints as a policeman, car assembly worker, trade unionist and platform sweeper at London’s Victoria station.
The ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party is yet to pick a candidate, but analysts point at defense minister Edgar Lungu, former PF secretary-general Wynter Kabimba, Finance minister Alexander Chikwaka and Sata’s son Mulenga, the mayor of Lusaka, as possible candidates.
Hundreds of Mulenga Sata’s supporters wore white and orange t-shirts that read, ‘Keep the Sata Legacy, Vote Mulenga Sata for President’ as the younger Sata shook hands with them upon arrival at the airport.
Acting President Guy Scott is interim leader until the election, making him the first white African leader since South Africa’s F.W. de Klerk lost to Nelson Mandela in the 1994 election that ended apartheid.
Scott, 70, is ineligible to run for the presidency in the election because of citizenship restrictions. His parents were not born in Zambia.
Reporting by Chris Mfula