WASHINGTON DC —
Zambians united in Lusaka for the burial of President Michael Sata Tuesday, but the issue of who is to succeed him is set to divide the nation whose post colonial motto became "One Zambia, One Nation", emphasising the need for unity in a country of over 60 ethnic groups.
The 77 year-old late Zambian leader died at London's King Edward VII Hospital where he was seeking medical attention on October 28 after a long undisclosed illness.
He was buried following a state funeral attended by over 50,000 mourners, who thronged the country’s Heroes Stadium. The burial was at the Embassy Park, the resting place of Zambian leaders.
Southern African Development Community chairperson and Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe addressed the mourners and attacked neo-colonialists and non-governmental organizations for allegedly pushing the West’s agenda on the continent.
He took a swipe at the West for allegedly continuing to underdevelop Africa.
Mr. Mugabe said, “We forget that we still need to fight an anti-imperialist war. They now come dressed as NGOs. They look at how they can influence our governments, our people … they give money to our people to corrupt them.”
He said he worked well with Mr. Sata and hoped to continue the relationship with his successor.
Mr. Sata had led Zambia since winning an election in 2011 that ended the 20 years of rule by the Movement for Multiparty Democracy party.
But there is no clarity on who will succeed him as his death has left a huge void in his ruling Patriotic Front (PF), which he formed in 2001.
Political analysts say it was his charisma that held the party together. Sata was nicknamed "King Cobra" because of his venomous tongue and sharp criticism of friends and foes alike.
Zambian vice president and interim president, Guy Scott, has said a presidential election will be held within 90 days.
Mr. Scott is not eligible to run for president because his parents are from Scotland.
Last month, however, the Zambian government presented lawmakers with a new draft constitution that would eliminate the Zambian-born parent requirement for candidates.
There is serious infighting in the ruling Patriotic Front as contenders jostle to succeed Sata.
Those who are said to be in the running include PF secretary general Edgar Lungu, Sata's son and Lusaka mayor Mulenga Sata, Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda and former minister Given Bimba.
The succession dispute started long before Sata's death as he was ailing and there were doubts he would run for a second and final term.
Zambia’s Centre for Policy Dialogue executive director, Neo Simutani, said it will be difficult to succeed Sata as his party was built around him.
Heads of state from Kenya, Madagascar and Namibia also attended the burial. Regional power house, South Africa was represented by its vice president, Cyril Ramaphosa.
VOA Studio 7 reached political analyst Chamu Madiridzire, a PhD candidate at the University of Cape Town, who said President Mugabe had a healthy relationship with the late Zambian leader.