Michael Chilufya Sata (King Cobra)
Date of Birth: 1937
Place of Birth: Mpika
Neither age nor ill-health seem to dampen the fire in the belly of Michael Sata. Born 1937, 'King Cobra' lost none of his bite, even after losing presidential elections in 2001, 2006 and 2008. After a decade in opposition, he was elected President in September 2011.
From early on, Michael Sata has sided with the winner. He rose to
prominence in the ruling United National Independence Party under Kenneth Kaunda,
serving as Lusaka Governor and later as a UNIP member of Parliament. He
defected to the Movement for Multiparty Democracy shortly before Frederick Chiluba
won the Presidency in 1991. He was MMD National Secretary and a
Minister without Portfolio under Chiluba, but broke with the party in
2001 after Levy Mwanawasa was chosen as its presidential
candidate. Sata formed the Patriotic Front (PF) that year, striking a
populist line and luring disenchanted MMD members.
Food and fuel prices are Sata's main targets, as is the increasing
Asian commercial presence. Such was the virulence of his 2006 campaign
that Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong threatened to cut ties if Sata won. The furore gave Sata a boost, as did campaign contributions from China's diplomatic rival Taiwan, but he was unable to convert it into a victory.
Zambia's relations with China continue to deepen despite such
mishaps. Sata, recovering from a heart attack and perhaps chastened by
his election failures, toned down the anti-China rhetoric for the 2008
campaign that followed President Mwanawasa's death. Although opposed by
Sata's PF, China Nonferrous Metals Mining took over the state's failed
Luanshya Copper Mines in May. In late July, the Zhonghui Mining Group
announced plans to invest US$3.6 billion over five years.