Ailing President Michael Sata is determined to make a brief appearance for the ceremonial opening of parliament this Friday, for perhaps his last time before he bids farewell to his political career.
Highly placed sources from within State House have disclosed that this year’s parliamentary opening will be a bit historical and somehow emotional owing to the poor health of the president.
“Two options have so far been fully agreed. One is for the president to be taken outside the country under the pretext of going to see his son say by tomorrow Thursday while someone else, most likely Defence Minister Edgar Lungu acts as president and opens parliament.
But the president is so stubborn and is determined to make what he considers his farewell bid to the presidency and politics. But the only thing is he cannot endure the length programme and parliamentary speech. He runs out of breath and the maximum he can go is possibly 10 minutes, that’s if he really stretches himself against medical advice,” sources have disclosed.
Ordinarily, the colourful programme that is normally transmitted live on ZNBC, involves several dances outside parliament building, inspecting a guard of honour mounted by the Zambia Army, 21 gun salute while the president stands on the presidential podium, national anthem, and other activities.
He later walks the length red carpet of National Assembly steps accompanied by the Speaker and his wife to inside parliament building where he reads a length speech about his government policies for the next calendar year.
But that will be way too much for ailing president Sata and State House has cut down on most of those ceremonial activities should he decide to come himself.
“What we have done is that the president might just be driven all the way to the vice-president and the speaker’s back entrance. He will then proceed to read brief headlines of his speech containing possibly five paragraphs and then just lay down the entire speech before parliament. It is not a normal practice, especially in the Commonwealth where even the Queen of United Kingdom reads the entire speech as Head of State despite her age. But for us it is a unique situation because the president is sick and we hope MPs will understand. He will then immediately leave and be driven back to State House for his medication. At least he will have tried if all goes as planned,” said a State House and Cabinet Office source.
Sources say Sata will use his brief appearance to bid farewell to the nation before giving up power soon, possibly within the next few weeks, or months on the advice of his South Korean medical team.
“But you know, each time people tell him to quit on medical grounds, he insists and says like any profession, politics is his profession and so he would rather continue even at the expense of his health. But we hope he will finally succumb and pave way for fresh blood in that office for the sake of the nation because he stopped working a long time ago,” sources said.