Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sata is a good fellow to have around - Levy

Sata is a good fellow to have around - Levy
By Chibaula Silwamba and Lambwe Kachali
Thursday May 15, 2008 [04:00]

President Levy Mwanawsa yesterday said he had realised that opposition Patriotic Front (PF) president Michael Sata was a good fellow to have around. President Mwanawasa also revealed that he so detested Sata that he did not even want to hear his voice because he was making his job very difficult. And Sata pledged not to openly criticise President Mwanawasa but talk to him in person.

Meanwhile, PF spokesperson Given Lubinda said the party’s central committee would sit to review Sata’s new relationship with President Mwanawasa.

Addressing journalists at State House after reconciliatory discussions with Sata, President Mwanawasa said when he received the news that Sata had suffered a heart attack, he was gripped with sadness and realised just how much he needed him.

“Today is one of the important days in Zambia in my administration of six years. I have always wanted the opposition to work with me to develop this country. I am always of the view that it is not right that we should be campaigning for five years and do nothing else to develop the country,” President Mwanawasa said.

“It is unfortunate that it must take serious illness for all of us to realise just how much we need each other. When the young man Ministry of Health permanent secretary Dr Simon Miti came to inform me that Mr Sata had developed a heart attack, I was at the gym in Chamba Valley.

I was so gripped with sadness at the news. If you asked me before, I would have told you that nshimfwaya nokumumfwa ishiwi lyakwe iyo. That is how much I detested this man because he was maliciously making my job difficult to govern this country.”

“I told Simon Miti that ‘where is Michael Sata?’ He told me that he was in some private hospital. Then I said ‘is he in a position to move? I want government to help for Mr Sata to be taken to South Africa for treatment’.

He told me that the doctors had said they are still stabilising him, that as soon as he was fit enough…again that would depend on the willingness of his relatives because Mr Sata is not in the position to make any decision,” President Mwanawasa said. “I agreed and I said ‘okay, let us wait’. I said ‘keep me informed and as soon as he is fit enough find out from Mrs Sata if he can be taken to hospital’.”

President Mwanawasa said around 22:00 hours or 23:00 hours, he received the news from Dr Miti that the doctors had advised that Sata could be flown and the government had since chartered a plane to take him to South Africa.

“I had also spoken to Mrs Sata and she feels very grateful that the government is able to assist in this way,” he said.

“I want you Sata to convey my thanks and those of government to Mrs Sata for having given us the opportunity to help despite the perception which was there that there is nothing in blood between you and myself.”

President Mwanawasa said at the same time, Sata had a problem of a passport, which had been confiscated by the government.

“I was unable to get in touch with the minister who was dealing with the matter, Hon Shikapwasha. So how could he arrive in South Africa without any form of travel documents?
I gave instructions for the system to make arrangements for Mr Sata to be received even though he had no passport or any other travel documents. That could be looked into later,” President Mwanawasa explained. “Fortunately, this was agreed; around past 01:00 hours in the morning Mr Sata, his wife and I think his niece were flown to South Africa for treatment.”

President Mwanawasa said he kept being worried until he received information that everything had gone on well and that Sata was out of danger. He said he was glad that his discussions with Sata yesterday had marked a new beginning in Zambia’s political history.

“I will be glad to convene a meeting of some senior party and government officials when you say you want to meet us. We have agreed that you will give us a paper to indicate the subjects you want us to discuss,” President Mwanawasa said.

“This is what I have always wanted. I consider Zambia as mine but Zambia is not mine alone, it is yours as well, it’s for everybody. Each of us, we are too small; we are smaller than Zambia so we must advance the interests of the many.”

President Mwanawasa said it would be good for his and Sata’s children saying, in future, that their fathers had contributed something to Zambia’s development.

“I want my children to be proud that we had a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather who ruled this country and he contributed. Do you still have children Mr Sata?” President

Mwanawasa asked as Sata responded: ‘I even have grandchildren.”
President Mwanawasa offered his condolences to Sata over the death of his son, Chilufya.

“But I want these children to be proud of the fact that our parents were there and they led this country to higher heights,” he said.

“Insults do not build the country, criticism especially if it is misdirected, does not build. My wife told me of a story that there was funeral which you and her attended Dean Mung’omba’s funeral and you were joking and you said ba Maureen tell Levy he is working very well but we are fighting for the presidency.

I said ‘that was a joke, I wish Michael Sata could do such jokes with me’.
“But the only thing we do when we meet is to come almost to blows, you remember when we met at the Electoral office…(Sata chips in: ‘that was when we were fighting for the chair.)”

President Mwanawasa said Sata was welcome to go to State House to see him personally or phone him.

“I am humbled to hear that it’s not your intention to be openly criticising me. I want to say that it is also mutual, it’s not my intention to openly criticise you.

I want us to discuss real issues that will build this country,” President Mwanawasa. “I am very happy to see you here at State House. And that goes to show where we are, this is State House, it’s not Mwanawasa House, it’s your house as well.”

President Mwanawasa invited Sata to be attending national events at State House.

“I want you to come and join us, come and laugh with us and come and reflect on what happened in the past year with us. Then our followers will say ‘yes, we are being led in the right direction’. Not as of now when they can say we are being led in the ditch,” said President Mwanawasa.

And Sata said the main purpose of his visit to State House was to thank President Mwanawasa for having taken him to South Africa for specialist treatment.

“I am entitled, everybody is entitled but somebody has to make a decision and make a decision at the right time. Your Excellency, I am very, very grateful,” said Sata and repeatedly praised President Mwanawasa. “Now having said thank you, Zambia provided leadership before and after independence and Zambia can still provide leadership.”

He said that in a few years’ time, President Mwanawasa would not be in State House and there would be another president.

“We as a nation, and most especially in the opposition, are sensitising the people and prepare for a smooth and honourable exit and assure that the new president will feel the comfort and appreciation for the people who were there,” Sata said.

“I have never been a president and that is why I am not going to join the MMD because all the jobs of minister I have been minister, I have never been vice-president and I don’t want to be vice-president; so I will remain in PF.”

Sata said yesterday was a new beginning for PF to dialogue with the government.
“We are grateful to the President for according us this opportunity to see us.

We will prepare a number of things which we want to discuss,” Sata said. “We were just the two of us, we haven’t told you everything we discussed. We have only selected what to tell you and we shall continue meeting the two of us.”

Sata told President Mwanawasa and his aides to call him any time so that he could meet President Mwanawasa.

“It will only be me who will know what we have discussed with President Mwanawasa, not even Guy Scott will know,” Sata said. “As colleagues, we must keep confidence of each other.”

Sata, however, denied that he had ‘sold’ PF to the MMD and President Mwanawasa.

And Given Lubinda said although PF appreciated Sata’s open position regarding his association with the MMD government for the benefit of the country, he was not running the party alone. He said Sata did not consult all members of the central committee about meeting President Mwanawasa at State House.

“But I can confirm that only a few members were consulted and not the whole committee. I think whatever has been discussed between the two presidents, they have to present before their party organs.

So, as PF, members of the central committee, we’ll have to sit and review the issue so that we can come up with a policy direction,” Lubinda said. “I think it will not be good to keep the members of the committee speculating since not everyone was consulted.”

Lubinda said Sata’s political shift would be extensively discussed by the central committee soon. He refuted fears of a possible merger with MMD, saying a PF and MMD merger would compromise Zambia’s democracy.

He said President Mwanawasa only remained with three years before he leaves office and a merger would be meaningless.

“For what benefit would be a merger with MMD? If that is done, the losers will be the people of Zambia. I can tell you, a merger is out and cannot happen at all,” Lubinda said.

Asked on how Sata could make peace with MMD when he had failed to do that in his own party, Lubinda said PF was a peaceful party and should continue to maintain peace with all parties as a way of promoting democracy in the country.

Asked further if PF members were happy with Sata’s political shift since they were against MMD policies, Lubinda said the meeting at State House would not change PF’s position in dealing with issues of national interest.

Lubinda said Sata’s meeting with President Mwanawasa was a fulfillment of his calls to end political tension in the country. He said on many occasions, Sata had wanted to meet President Mwanawasa and discuss national matters.

“I hope you will recall when government invited PF to participate in the NCC. President Sata refused but said he is ready to meet President Mwanawasa and discuss the matter so that contentious issues that were raised by most stakeholders are resolved. So, as far as I am concerned, president Sata is just fulfilling his mission.

He is not like others who meet President Mwanawasa in the cover of darkness,” Lubinda said.

He said even PF members of parliament had been holding meetings with government ministers to discuss developmental issues.

“I have held meetings with local government minister Sylvia Masebo, Minister of Lands and many others. So, as president of the party, president Sata has the right to meet President Mwanawasa to unite the country and bring development,” said Lubinda.



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