Patriotic Front (PF) president Michael Sata lost his balance and collapsed during the on-going campaign trail in Nalolo Constituency but was aided by officials who are flying him around Western Province.
Sata struggled to disembark from the Helicopter which he has hired on credit from the Livingstone-based United Air Charters (UAC) in Nalolo constituency in Senanga district.
It is understood that the PF leader had to take a brief rest near the plane before be could board the six-seat helicopter which he has hired until the close of the campaign period.
But the PF has denied that Sata collapsed. The PF issued the following statement on its website:
“Patriotic Front Leader Michael Sata has rubbished rumours that he collapsed while on his Western Province campaign trail saying he was aware that this was part of the scheme that the MMD has packaged to mislead voters as the country heads to presidential and general elections in the next 13 days.
‘Mr. Sata told a packed rally in Kaoma today that this was mere propaganda hatched by the MMD who have created a team of State Security agents to mount a smear campaign to discredit him.
‘The PF is also in possession of information from highly placed OP contacts that the MMD has planned to unleash extensive publicity just before elections announcing that Mr. Sata has died.’
But the Times of Zambia reports that before he flew to Senanga, Mr Sata travelled to Nalikwanda Constituency but the planned rally was aborted after residents stayed away from him, according to former Transport and Communications minister Geoffrey Lungwangwa who is contesting the seat on the MMD ticket.
Mr Sata arrived in the morning at a place called Nalwei where he had arranged to hold the rally but found no body at the venue and aborted the mission and proceeded to Nalolo. Mr Sata has hired a helicopter on credit from the Livingstone-based firm for the 2011 presidential and general elections.
Mr Sata is said to have made part-payment for the helicopter he intends to use for the remaining campaign period that ends at 18 hours on Monday, September 19, 2011. The hire of a plane costs about US2,135 per hour (K10,675,000) but UAC declined to give details of the amount involved. The charge only applies during the hours that the helicopter is used.
Parking fees if it is used outside Livingstone costs US$250 per night while US$100 is paid to the pilot every day. UAC manager Ronald Mwiinga confirmed having hired the helicopter to Mr Sata in an interview and that it was delivered to him on Tuesday.
Asked whether it was Mr Sata as an individual or the party that paid for the helicopter, Mr Mwiinga said, “I don’t know I have not received any payment as at now.
Qn-When are they going to pay?
Ans– That I do not know you see the whole transaction was done by my boss. So I have not looked at the quotation and how much it was and how they are paying. But the helicopter left Livingstone today,” Mr Mwiinga said. “Mr Sata is being flown by our chief executive Ignatius Lindeque. We treated Sata as a Zambian or any international client. The issue of special rates or half price is not there,” Mr Mwiinga said.
He said the PF had not yet paid for the plane but it had been released and that the details on the agreement could only be disclosed by Mr Lindeque who was not immediately available to comment on the matter. He clarified reports that UAC gave Mr Sata a huge discount saying he was treated just like any other customer.
“He came as a client just as we receive millions of clients here now should we start giving information to the public because this is not a public thing. The plane only left today (Tuesday). We gave him a quote which we agreed on and they have used the plane today, actually it is not a plane it’s a helicopter it only left today,” Mr Mwiinga said. Mr Mwiinga said the helicopter sits six people and the seventh is the pilot. He said giving details of the costs is private.
After persuasion on the need to be transparent because the matter involved a public individual on a public matter, Mr Mwiinga said he was afraid to give more details claiming many other people had queried his office on the matter and was not certain about the authenticity of the caller unless proper identity was provided.
Mr Mwiinga later asked for a written quotation on a Times of Zambia headed paper but when this was done, he referred queries to PF secretary general Wynter Kabimba. Mr Kabimba told the Times of Zambia to seek clarification from the MMD who should have more details about Mr Sata’s hired helicopter. Mr Kabimba said he would only respond to the matter when the MMD clarifies the questions PF had raised about the sources of funding.