The ejection of the Zambian national soccer team from the on-going African cup of nations in South Africa has been a big blow to the Zambian government for other reasons.
Sources have told the Watchdog that President Michael Sata’s secret trip to UK and India for treatment was meant to be under cover of the soccer-loving Zambians being glued to the on-going games and divert attention from the president’s medical trip abroad.
“The government machinery is very shocked and it is like they never anticipated that the Zambia National team would be ejected from the games so early in the first round because they wanted people to concentrate on the on-going games, but the whole well-crafted scheme has not worked and Zambians are back to their usual ways of questioning things,” sources said.
Sources within PF government said the president was supposed to be out for medication under the soccer fever that gripped the nation and were determined to achieve this by promising hefty allowances and winning bonuses to the players so that they stay in the competition for a longtime and divert people’s attention away from local national issues.
When the team was facing Burkina Faso in a crucial encounter that would have seen them stay in the competition, the Zambian government raised the winning bonus from US$8000 to US$11,000 if they qualified to the next round by beating their opponents.
Sources said it was also the reason media houses such as the PF Post newspaper dedicated too much attention to soccer coverage even on front pages, something they had never done before.
President Sata was also made to visit the soccer team in South Africa to offer encouragement to the boys so that they can work extra hard as they protect his secret trip for medication.
The scheme was that even if some people were going to ask the president’s whereabouts, the impact would not have been much as the talk around the country would have been soccer which the media were also detailed to cover extensively.
After Zambia was booted out, the system even started a rumour that Zambia had qualified because Burkina Faso used an ineligible player.
President Sata flew from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to UK via Dubai after the African Union (AU) summit on Monday, January 28, 2013 using Emirates Airlines which has since acknowledged carrying him.
The airline has however not specified the mission to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates for Zambia’s Head of State.
After attending the AU summit in Ethiopia, President Sata made a secret trip to London via Dubai and proceeded to the Indian city of Gujurat for prostate cancer and heart complication treatment.
He was supposed to arrive in Lusaka on an Emirates plane on Friday afternoon, but the delegation cancelled the booking for unknown reasons. This is according to inside information at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka.
Emirates Airlines Senior Vice President of Commercial Operations for Africa Jean Luc said in Lusaka that President Sata had been a loyal client of the airline.
Jean Luc was speaking at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport when he introduced the maiden 777-300ER maiden flight to Lusaka on Friday afternoon.
Jean Luc was explaining to guests the strides Emirates airlines had made in Zambia and the support the airline had received from the government but he messed up and devoured top secrets about the President’s travel itinerary after the AU summit which officially ended last week on Sunday.
“The president has actually been flying with us. For example, we flew him to Dubai from Addis Ababa this week and later to London. He has been a great flyer with us and we are grateful for the support,” he said.
The Emirates official may not have been aware that Michael Sata’s trips to Dubai and London were covert, since there has been no statement issued on the whereabouts of the President.
And according to other anonymous officials at Emirates Airlines in Lusaka, Mr Sata and his delegation were expected back to Lusaka on the maiden 777-300ER flight to Lusaka on Friday, but the delegation cancelled their flights at short notice. Only Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Broadcasting and Information Amos Malupenga arrived on this flight and was spotted at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport.
An intelligence officer at the airport said the security system received alerts that the president had cancelled his booking on Emirates Airlines since he was going to fly to Lusaka direct from London on Sunday morning.
“We have been told the president is coming on Sunday very early in the morning from London. He was supposed to come on Emirates, but we were told the booking was cancelled for unknown reasons and it is only Amos Malupenga who has arrived,” the intelligence officer said.
There has been speculation on the whereabouts of President Michael Sata after he attended the AU summit in Ethiopia. The president was expected back to Lusaka on Monday January 28, 2013, but journalists who went to cover his arrival at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport bounced because the presidential Challenger plane which touched down at the airport did not carry the President.