There was confusion at Chipata Airport in Eastern province this morning when opposition Patriotic Front (PF) leader, Michael Sata, was ordered to leave the body viewing ceremony of the late President Levy Mwanawasa.
The visibly disturbed Mr. Sata was seen being escorted by security officers away from the ceremony shortly after the arrival of First Lady, Maureen Mwanawasa.
Mr. Sata said in an interview as he was leaving the airport that Mrs. Mwanawasa did not assent to his presence and attendance of the ceremony.
He said the first lady asked him whether he was invited to the occasion when he went to greet her.
He said the first lady feared that he was politicizing the death of the President.
Mr. Sata said he was shocked with Mrs. Mwanawasa’s reaction especially that the ceremony was a sorrowful event where people did not need to be invited to attend the funeral.
“I am saddened with her behaviour because this is a state funeral and anyone can attend. I’m not politicizing the issue,” he said.
Mr. Sata stated that he was going to mourn the President and no one should stop him from doing so because Dr. Mwanawasa was a President for everyone.
The PF leader, who called ZNBC reporters to witness his departure, indicated that he would go to the next destination after Chipata.
But when asked which his next destination would be, Mr. Sata said it would not be of news if he revealed.
And asked what he would do next since his program had been cut short, Mr. Sata said he had completed his program, saying his plan was to receive the body of the President and leave after the guard of honour.
Mr. Sata arrived at the airport at 07:00 hours left at 10:45 this morning.
Meanwhile, Eastern Province Minister, Charles Shawa explained that Mr. Sata was sent off to avoid politicizing the funeral of Dr. Mwanawasa.
Mr. Shawa told ZANIS that Mr. Sata was given an opportunity to view the body in Lusaka yesterday and therefore, he did not need to go to all provincial headquarters to do what he could have done in Lusaka.
Earlier, Mr. Sata mingled with cabinet ministers, deputy ministers, and chiefs before he was sent off.