Zambian president dies in London hospital

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Zambian President Michael Sata, an abrasive figure nicknamed ‘King Cobra’ because of his venomous tongue, has died in London where he had been receiving medical treatment, the government in Africa’s second-largest copper producer said on Wednesday.

Sata, whose attacks on foreign mining companies have sometimes rattled investors, died on Tuesday evening at London’s King Edward VII hospital, the Zambia Reports and Zambian Watchdog websites reported. He was 77.

The cause of death was not immediately disclosed but Sata, who became president of the landlocked southern African nation in 2011, had been ill for some time.

“As you are aware the president was receiving medical attention in London,” cabinet secretary Roland Msiska announced on state television. “The head of state passed away on October 28. President Sata’s demise is deeply regretted.”

Sata is likely to be succeeded on an interim basis by Defence Minister Edgar Lungu, who stood in recently as acting president, or by Vice-President Guy Scott, who would become Africa’s first white head of state since South Africa’s FW de Klerk in 1994.

The constitution says a new presidential election must be held within 90 days. Most analysts say Scott is unlikely to run because of citizenship restrictions.

The Zambian kwacha fell 2 percent against the dollar although traders said it was unlikely to suffer any prolonged weakness due to the underlying health of an economy expected to grow by seven percent this year.

“Obviously there will be a sentimental temptation to go long on dollars, but I’m also quite confident the central bank will do everything it can to protect the currency,” one Lusaka-based trader said.

“In terms of the economy, everything should still be on track.”

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