Page last updated at 13:59 GMT, Tuesday, 26 August 2008 14:59 UK

Zambia's mourning turns political

Michael Sata talking to Maureen Mwanawasa in Chipata
Mr Sata says Mrs Mwanawasa 'blew up' when he knelt before her

Zambian opposition leader Michael Sata has told the BBC that he was chased away from a mourning gathering for late President Levy Mwanawasa by his widow.

He denied reports that he had been provocative to Maureen Mwanawasa, who is taking the body on a tour of the country ahead of a state funeral.

"I said to her: 'I'm very sorry,' then she blew up," Mr Sata said.

He went on to accuse her of using the funereal tour as a bid for her to stand for president in three months time.

"It is her who has turned the whole funeral into politics," Mr Sata told the BBC's Focus on Africa programme, adding that a widow should stay at home to mourn not tour the country.

I have said nobody can stop me from mourning my brother
Opposition leader Michael Sata

He said that he would be standing in the forthcoming elections

"My party will participate in the elections, there's nothing politicking about that - but she must also come out in the open instead of hiding in a dead man, instead of exhibiting a dead man all over the country."

President Mwanawasa died in France last week, having suffered a stroke in June from which he never recovered.

He will be given a state funeral on 3 September, on what would have been his 60th birthday.


Mr Sata said that despite being chased away on Sunday from viewing the body in Chipata, 580 km (360 miles) east of the capital, Lusaka, no-one could stop him from attending the funeral.

He added that he and the late president had reconciled their differences in May.

In the run-up to the last election in 2006, Mr Sata infamously tore apart a cabbage at a campaign rally.

The cabbage was a reference to Mr Mwanawasa, who once had a bad car accident which affected his speech

"I have said nobody can stop me from mourning my brother, Maureen cannot stop me," Mr Sata said.

Vice-President Rupiah Banda has taken over interim leadership of the country, but elections must be held within 90 days to decide who will succeed Mr Mwanawasa.

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