Zambia releases photos of Sata chairing cabinet to quell illness talk

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 14, 2014 9:26 AM

LUSAKA (Reuters) - Zambia released photographs of President Michael Sata chairing a cabinet meeting on Monday, allaying speculation that the 77-year-old leader was critically ill.

An Israeli official told Reuters on June 26 that Sata was receiving medical treatment in Israel but did not give details on his condition.

Sata's spokesperson emailed the photos to the press on Monday. Sata also posted the same photographs and a statement on his Facebook page. His previous post had been five weeks ago, fuelling talk of his ill health because the page was updated at least once a week before then.

"I am determined to ensure that our government scales up interventions aimed at accelerating rural development in order to improve the people's living standards," Sata said in his statement on Facebook.

He returned from Israel last weekened and celebrated his 77th birthday with friends and family on Sunday, the the state-owned Zambia Daily Mail newspaper reported, citing a family spokesman.

The last time Sata was seen in public was on June 19, the day before he left for Israel, when state television showed him meeting visiting Chinese Vice President Li Yuanchao.

Sata suffered a heart attack in 2008 and his opponents said he collapsed during a six-week election campaign in 2011, claims the president denied.

Before his victory that year, Sata had contested and lost presidential elections in 2001, 2006 and 2008.

(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Tiisetso Motsoeneng and Susan Fenton)