Michael Sata

Michael Sata
Michael Sata
President of Zambia
Assumed office
23 September 2011
Vice President Guy Scott
Preceded by Rupiah Banda
Personal details
Born 1937 (age 73–74)
Mpika, Northern Rhodesia
(now Zambia)
Political party Patriotic Front (2001–present)
Other political
United National Independence Party (Before 1991)
Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (1991–2001)
Religion Roman Catholicism[1]

Michael Chilufya Sata (born 1937[2]) is a Zambian politician who has been the fifth President of Zambia since 23 September 2011. He leads the Patriotic Front (PF), a major political party in Zambia. Under President Frederick Chiluba, Sata was a minister during the 1990s as part of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) government; he went into opposition in 2001, forming the PF. As an opposition leader, Sata—popularly known as "King Cobra"—emerged as the leading opposition presidential contender and rival to President Levy Mwanawasa in the 2006 presidential election, but was defeated. Following Mwanawasa's death, Sata ran again and lost to President Rupiah Banda in 2008.

After ten years in opposition, Sata defeated Banda, the incumbent, to win the September 2011 presidential election with a plurality of the vote.


Early years

Michael Chilufya Sata was born and brought up in Mpika, Northern Province. He worked as a police officer, railway man and trade unionist during colonial rule. He spent time in London working on the railway sweeping the platforms. Among other things, he was a porter at Victoria railway station[3] . Sata began actively participating in the politics of Northern Rhodesia in 1963. Following independence, he worked his way up through the rough-and-tumble rank-and-file of the ruling United National Independence Party (UNIP) to the governorship of Lusaka in 1985. As Governor, he made his mark as a man of action with a hands on approach. He cleaned up the streets, patched roadways and built bridges in the city. Afterward he became a Member of Parliament for Kabwata constituency in Lusaka. Though once close with President Kenneth Kaunda, he became disillusioned by Kaunda's dictatorial style and he left the UNIP to join the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) during the campaign for multi-party politics in 1991.

After Frederick Chiluba defeated Kaunda in 1991, Sata became one of Zambia's most instantly recognizable faces. Under the MMD, he served as minister for local government, labor and, briefly, health where, he boasts, his "reforms brought sanity to the health system".

In 1995, he was appointed as minister without portfolio, the party's national organizing secretary during which his political style was described as "increasingly abrasive".

Formation of Patriotic Front

In 2001, President Chiluba nominated Levy Mwanawasa as the MMD's presidential candidate for the 2001 election. In frustration, Sata left the MMD and set up a new party, the Patriotic Front (PF). He contested the 2001 election but did not do well—his party only won one seat in parliament. Sata conceded defeat and continued campaigning.

2006 election and afterwards

Sata contested the September 2006 presidential election as a populist championing the causes of the poor in the face of Mwanawasa's economic reform policies. While the slate of candidates contesting the election frequently resorted to personal attacks and insults, Sata's remarks were at times quite equally scathing. At one campaign event in particular, Sata was reported to have ripped apart a cabbage in front of his supporters. The cabbage was a reference to Mwanawasa's speech impediment, which was the result of an injury sustained in a 1992 car crash.[4] He has also accused Mwanawasa of "selling out" Zambia to international interests, and at one event, he referred to Hong Kong as a country and Taiwan as a sovereign state. In response, China, which is interested in Zambia's copper reserves, threatened to cut off relations with Zambia if he was elected.[5][6] Sata's right hand man in the campaign was Dr. Guy Scott, the Patriotic Front secretary general. Scott is a white Zambian politician. He served a number of ministerial positions during the Chiluba government.[7] Sata also received the public backing of Chiluba.[8]

Initial results from the election gave Sata the lead, but further results put Mwanawasa in first place and pushed Sata into third place.[9] Interim results released after votes from 120 of 150 constituencies were counted put Mwanawasa on just over 42% of the vote; Hakainde Hichilema had 28%; and the Michael Sata had slipped to 27%. When opposition supporters heard that Sata had slipped from first to third place, riots erupted in Lusaka.[10] On 2 October, the Zambian Electoral Commission announced that Mwanawasa had officially won the election; final results put Sata in second place with about 29% of the vote.[11][12]

Sata was arrested in early December 2006, accused of making a false declaration of his assets when applying to run for president in August, along with other charges. He was questioned by police and released on bail. If convicted, he could have received a prison sentence of least two years.[13] As a convict, he would also be unable to hold public office. Sata said the charges were politically motivated, and in court he pleaded not guilty to them.[14] On 14 December, the charges were dropped on the grounds that the declaration of assets was not made under oath.[15]

On 15 March 2007, Sata was deported from Malawi shortly after arrival. Sata said that he was only there to meet with the business community, and alleged that the Zambian government had effected the deportation by falsely claiming that Sata was in Malawi to assist that country's former president, Bakili Muluzi. The Zambian government denied this,[16] while the Malawian government gave no explanation for Sata's deportation. On 6 April, Sata's lawyer said that he had initiated a lawsuit against the Malawian government for violating his rights.[17]

After losing his passport in London in late 2007, Sata was issued another; however, on 10 November 2007, Minister of Home Affairs Ronnie Shikapwasha announced that Sata's passport was withdrawn temporarily because he had obtained the new passport without following the necessary procedures and proving that he needed a new passport. Shikapwasha said that an investigation would follow, that Sata had been interrogated, and that he could face arrest.[18]

Sata suffered a heart attack on 25 April 2008 and was evacuated to Milpark Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he was said to be in stable condition on 26 April.[19] He reconciled with President Mwanawasa in May 2008.[20]

On 31 March 2010 he was interviewed by Christopher Hopkins from Oxford University.

Mwanawasa's death and the 2008 election

After Mwanawasa suffered a stroke and was hospitalized in France, Sata questioned the official claims about Mwanawasa's health on 15 July 2008, and he called for a team of doctors to be sent by the Cabinet to examine Mwanawasa; this team would then disclose Mwanawasa's actual condition.[21] Mwanawasa died in office in August 2008. On 25 August, Sata attempted to attend funeral proceedings for Mwanawasa at Chipata in Eastern Province; however, Maureen Mwanawasa, Mwanawasa's widow, ordered Sata to leave, saying that he was politicizing the event and that he had never reconciled with Mwanawasa's family. Sata, who was removed from the scene by security, said that he was only there to mourn Mwanawasa and that he had hoped to escort the body while it was taken to provincial capitals across Zambia; he maintained that his reconciliation with Mwanawasa himself was sufficient to justify his presence.[22] He also said that Maureen Mwanawasa had acted inappropriately.[20]

Sata was unanimously chosen as the PF's candidate for the presidential by-election at a meeting of its Central Committee on 30 August 2008. Accepting the nomination, he expressed the need "to scrub this country and wash it"; he also said that he would refrain from campaigning until after Mwanawasa's funeral.[23] Despite his April 2008 heart attack, Sata said that he was healthy and in good condition.[24]

Sata said that he would not accept a victory for Banda because there was "no way MMD can win", and he alleged that the Electoral Commission and the police were working together to rig the election.[25] Although he held the lead in early vote counting, which reflected his strong support in urban areas, his lead grew smaller as votes from rural areas were counted. In the end, Banda overtook Sata, and final results on 2 November showed Banda with 40% of the vote against 38% for Sata.[26] Sata subsequently stated that he had not been defeated and accused Banda of fraud.[27]

2011 election

Sata ran for President for a fourth time in the election held on 20 September 2011. In the early stages of the campaign he was more vitriolic in his anti-Chinese rhetoric, but he later toned down his rhetoric. Results showed him receiving about 43% of the vote against 36% for Banda, and Chief Justice Ernest Sakala accordingly declared that he had won the election in the early hours of 23 September. He was sworn in later in the day.[28]

He was said to have won because of the urban vote. Despite the toning down of his rhetoric, the investment climate in Zambia was considered uncertain in the wake of his victory.


On 8 September 2008, Sata claimed that he would protect Chinese investments[clarification needed] if he was elected, abandoning the hostility towards Chinese investment that he had expressed during the 2006 presidential election campaign.[29]

During the 2006 election campaign he was reported to have said of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe that "Mugabe hasn't done anything wrong. It is the imperialists, the capitalist-roaders, who say he is a villain."[30]

In 2008, he said that he would revoke licenses for foreign investors if they resisted his orders to give at least a 25% stake in their companies to Zambians.[31]

At his inauguration as President of Zambia, Sata assured foreign investors that they are welcome in his country, Africa's biggest copper producer, but said they must improve conditions for their Zambian employees.[32]


  1. ^ "President Sata thanks Church for peaceful polls and promises to base his rule on the 10 Commandments", Lusaka Times, 25 September 2011
  2. ^ "China's stake in Zambia's election", BBC, 19 September 2011.
  3. ^ "The World This Week". Economist. October 1st, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Zambia campaign draws to a close", BBC News, 27 September 2006.
  5. ^ "Tough election race in Zambia", Al Jazeera, 30 September 2006.
  6. ^ "Profile: Zambia's 'King Cobra'", BBC News, 29 September 2006.
  7. ^ "Tilyenji comes to his father’s defense", Times of Zambia.
  8. ^ "Vote out president, Chiluba says", BBC News, 18 September 2006.
  9. ^ "Zambian President Takes Election Lead, Opposition Claims Irregularities", Voice of America, 1 October 2006.
  10. ^ "Zambia vote count sparks violence", BBC News, 1 October 2006.
  11. ^ "Poll victory for Zambia president", BBC News, 2 October 2006.
  12. ^ Zambia elections, Angus Reid.
  13. ^ "Zambia opposition leader arrested", BBC News, 5 December 2006.
  14. ^ Peter Clottey, "Zambian Opposition Leader Pleads not Guilty to Charges", Voice of America, 7 December 2006.
  15. ^ "Zambian court quashes charges against Sata", AFP, 14 December 2006.
  16. ^ Shapi Shacinda, "'Coup smear' blocks trip to Malawi", Reuters (IOL), 17 March 2007.
  17. ^ "Malawi violated my rights, says party leader", AFP (IOL), 6 April 2007.
  18. ^ "Zambia opposition leader's passport withdrawn", AFP (Mail & Guardian Online, South Africa), 11 November 2007.
  19. ^ "Zambian opposition leader 'stable'", Sapa (IOL), 26 April 2008.
  20. ^ a b "Zambian opposition leader, first lady clash", AFP (IOL), 25 August 2008.
  21. ^ "Is Mwanawasa fit to rule?", Sapa-AFP (IOL), 15 July 2008.
  22. ^ "Zambia's opposition leader ordered to leave late President's funeral proceedings", Xinhua (People's Daily Online), 26 August 2008.
  23. ^ "Zambia's biggest opposition picks candidates for presidential by-elections", Xinhua, 31 August 2008.
  24. ^ "Sata demands polling date", Lusaka Times, 5 September 2008.
  25. ^ "'There is no way MMD can win'", Sapa-AFP (IOL), 30 October 2008.
  26. ^ "Zambia: Banda sworn in, riots spread", Sapa-DPA (IOL), 2 November 2008.
  27. ^ "Sata: I have not lost this election", Sapa-DPA (IOL), 4 November 2008.
  28. ^ "Zambia's Sata sworn in as new president", Reuters, 23 September 2011.
  29. ^ Shapi Shacinda, "Sata warms to Chinese investment in Zambia", Reuters (IOL), 8 September 2008.
  30. ^ Long queues in tight Zambian poll BBC
  31. ^ Sata to help local investors News24
  32. ^ "Zambia Swears in Opposition Leader as New President" VOA, 25 September 2011

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Rupiah Banda
President of Zambia

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