Zambia: When The Health of The President Becomes a National Discourse

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 In a typical African way, many Zambians were left in a dark over the health of their President, Michael Sata, who recently came back from Israel, after a long medical trip overseas.

President Michael Sata`s long absence had raised speculations and uncertainty over his health, especially having in mind that the government officials in Zambia simply described his long disappearance as “a normal medical checkup.“ It did not help matters   that the government kept sealed lips for long over the whereabouts of the president, when actually an average Zambian was concerned and had started asking questions over his absence. Worse still, since coming back to Zambia, the president was not seen in public. Not even officials at the Nkwazi House, the official residence of the President, had seen their 77 year old chain smoker President, since he came back from Israel. The restriction had raised alarm among President Sata`s staff, who feared for the worst, having in mind that the president is not the type who would rather keep away from his subjects.

Uncomfortable still, many members of the opposition initiated a legal battle to force the government to reveal to the public, the medical information of President Sata, after the government stubbornly refused to honour such a demand from the opposition. Although the High Court recently dismissed an application brought by civil rights activist Brebnar Changala, which sought to force the cabinet to set up a medical board and ascertain President Michael Sata’s health; the court ruling ended up mounting more speculations surrounding the health of President Santa. What do you expect when President Sata’s medical trip to Israel was shrouded in secrecy? As if he was quarreling with the daylight, President Sata left for Israel in the night.

“In the Night?“

Wait, let me land before your disrespectful interruptions. He returned in the night as well. You call him the nocturnal President? Well, if you insist“¦.

To minimize speculations, President Sata eventually appeared in the public ““ this time around, in the day – for the first time, after more than three weeks and interacted with his fans on the Facebook. Bravo! But for those who were expecting the President to use this opportunity or medium to meticulously inform them about his medical history or graphically show them photos of him lying helplessly in the hospital bed, you`d think twice. Rather, President Michael Sata, was busy on his Facebook, talking about State projects. Strange? It might be to you, but not to President Sata; after all you were the one saying that Oga President was sick. Did he tell you so? Talking about his sickness is tantamount to accepting your position. Think Presidential! Ok, think African if you are too modest to think Presidential. A point of clarity: President Sata never told you he was sick. You claimed so. As far as he is concerned, he is still able to face Mike Tyson in the ring? Mike Tyson? Is that one not a spent force? Or you underrate Sata`s uppercut?  Bring it on! Where is Klitschko? Do not doubt what President Sata or any other African Methuselah-President could do to prove to the citizens that they are healthy ““ and therefore not contemplating leaving the office.

It is not that Zambians just woke up one day and started being concerned about the health of their stubborn President.   In 2008, President Sata suffered a heart attack. Others claimed he collapsed during a six-week election campaign in 2011. As usual for a typical African President, Mr. Sata vehemently denied the allegation. But concealing a sickness is like hiding a pregnancy. In January, the office of the President had no choice but to admit that President Sata, who contested and lost presidential elections in 2001, 2006 and 2008, would be leaving for Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, “for a 14-day working holiday.“

“Working holiday?“

Yes! Or have your ears gone to the market? What is wrong with a hard working president taking a 14-day working holiday?“ Are you still curious about President Sata`s several international trips? No wonder why you raised his June 20 trip.

“It all started with President Sata`s frail and weak image during a Labour Day march-past.“ So what? I thought you admitted some minutes ago, that President Sata was hard working; so why raising unnecessary alarm over his poor looks during the Labour Day march-past? He could have overworked the previous night, hence his haggard appearance. But wait! As the Commander In Chief, President Sata was supposed to take the salute, address the gathering and give presents to workers during the Labour Day march-past. Rather, Mr Sata appeared briefly,   gave a one-minute speech, and before you knew it, the President had vanished ““ or some claimed, was whisked away. Kata Kata`s reporter could not confirm the reports in certain quarters that President Sata was protesting and kicking his legs violently (or weakly, according to some media reports) at any attempt to whisk him away to the hospital to avoid a public embarrassment. It seems you read a lot of   the “Animal Farm“story. Since when has President Sata become the Zambia Boxer?

I`ll work harder; Napoleon is always right.“     You hear that?

It is not uncommon in Africa for a President to leave the office voluntarily. Nor is it a norm for an African Commander in Chief to disclose their medical reports. A President Sata`s former neighbour in Malawi, former President Bingu wa Mutharika swore many times by all the gods of his village that he was visiting Singapore frequently only to buy an Ice cream.   And to work. Asked by Kata kata why he could not buy the same ice cream in Malawi, the former President stammered and insisted that he neither trusted the hygiene of the   Malawi river nor the tape water in his country. Before one could suggest he should buy a trailer load of his favourite   Ice cream   from Singapore, and load it in his presidential palace to avoid unnecessarily frequent flights to Singapore, the country was woken up by the sad news of his demise. May his soul rest in peace.

Former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of Nigeria followed ““ or some would say, was forced to follow – the same sad path. A responsible cool headed and less corrupt leader, one would say. Yes, “less corrupt,“ although hardly   a saint. Not even our beloved Mandela was a saint. When former President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria personally hand picked Musa Yar’Adua as his anointed successor and presidential candidate of his PDP party, some labelled that move “sinister”.

“Sinister? Picking someone to become the country`s next president? Nigerians and bad mouth!“

But you have two highly controversial elements here ““ Obasanjo and Nigeria. Some accused Obasanjo of using the choice of Umaru Musa Yar’Adua to actualize his personal interest, punctured by the aborted third term ambition. Still strange? Still in a dark? You have shown your lack of Nigerian political and social realities. The accusation against Obasango was that he had not only access to Umaru Musa Yar’Adua`s medical history, but Obasanjo, they argued, knew equally that Yar’Adua’s poor state of health could not allow him to complete his presidential terms.

“So what?“

You still don`t understand! Constitutionally, if President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua would be forced to leave the office due to health problems, his then Deputy President, Goodluck Jonathan   – Obasanjo`s puppet (in Africa, that role is always temporary till this “puppet“ acquires enough power) ““ would take over the mantle of leadership, making Obasango the shadow President.

“The fulfillment of the aborted third term agenda? Political mathematics!“

Even when President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was sadly on his way to meet his creator, some greedy presidential sycophants were busy telling Nigerians that the “healthy and bouncing“ President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was ready to challenge anyone to a badminton game. Nigeria as a country was held to ransom by a group of cronies and rooters.   Power must not be shifted. The status quo must be maintained, some grudgingly, stubbornly and fastidiously believed. Billions of dollars stolen with naked impunity from the State coffer in a last minute of free for all national stealing. Who cares? This is Nigeria, where accountability has been declared   a persona nongrata in the national discourse and culture. It took the long protests by concerned Nigerian citizens and the International Community (“thou shall not tamper with the constant flow of the Nigerian oil“) to force the Presidency to reveal to the nation – at the last moment – that their   beloved President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua would soon belong to the past. President Goodluck Jonathan did not disappoint his parents after all, who named him “Goodluck.“

The assurances from our South African President Jacob Zuma is not different:

“I read in newspapers about how sick I am and what diseases are in me. I was shocked that  may be another Jacob Zuma, not this one. In fact, my doctors have been saying young people are going to envy you if they knew how healthy you are. There is no problem. I am as healthy as anything.   I am healthy, and I am working.“ Zuma told Kata Kata.

Even if you have any reason to doubt President Zuma’s capability or ability in the office, do you doubt what uncle Zuma can do at home? Don’t even go there! Before you dare challenge him at home, just first get your leopard skin, your tunic and other Zulu warrior regalia. Come to the arena, jump up and stamp your strong feet in a typical Zulu warrior way. Still want to challenge uncle Zuma`s health? President Zuma, 72 did not tell Kata Kata why he kept emphasizing on the word “healthy.“ Nor was he asked whether he was willing and able to add another wife to his arsenal ““ especially now that his new massive mansion can accommodate more wives. You think President   Zuma did not have enough foresight when he decided to enlarge his residence?   Whatever, uncle Zuma joined the “I am healthy“ Presidential song only after he spent a weekend in hospital, following the May general elections, which left him exhausted.

President Robert Mugabe, the 90 year old political Iroko cum Mahagony of   Zimbabwe has been singing the “I am healthy“song for so long that many Zimbabweans have forgotten the lyric and rhythm of that song. Museveni of Uganda prefers “You want another rap?“  song. Paul Biya of Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea`s Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Angola`s José Eduardo dos Santos are all busy singing the Presidential “I am healthy“song.

Join the chorus. I hear you!

Any doubt still, why the health of the President has become a national discourse in Africa?


The above story is a parody.  It is entirely fictitious;  therefore none of the characters mentioned in the story are real.