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Zambian govt confirms death of President Michael Sata

Michael Sata passed away last night at London’s King Edward VII hospital.

FILE: Zambia President Michael Sata. Picture: Facebook.com

JOHANNESBURG - The Zambian government has confirmed the death of the country's president, Michael Sata.

Private Zambian media outlets earlier reported that Sata died in a London hospital overnight.

The 77-year-old was last seen in public at the United Nations General Assembly in New York last month.

He fell ill and missed his speaking slot at that seating.

Zambia's High Commissioner in South Africa says Sata was in high spirits at the weekend, and had been discharged from hospital before dying of an undisclosed illness overnight.

High commissioner Muyeba Chikondwe says the news of Sata's passing is devastating.

"I know that he was recuperating and was in quite high spirits over the weekend, because I personally spoke to him and he was discharged as far as I know. But it was shocking when we heard the news."

It's understood he had been receiving medical treatment for an undisclosed illness for some time.

The South African government has sent its condolences to the people of Zambia.

Head of diplomacy Clayson Monyela expressed condolences from President Jacob Zuma.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the people of Zambia during this difficult time."

The Zambian Watchdog says Sata's wife and three of his sons including Lusaka Mayor Mulenga Sata were at the President's deathbed.

The country's Cabinet held an emergency meeting this morning, but it's still not clear who will be appointed as acting president.

It's understood the Cabinet's meeting will be to formalise the power transfer to vice president Guy Scott.

This will entail acting president Edgar Lungu to handover power to Scott and the Cabinet formulating an official statement of the president's passing.

It's unclear if Lungu will agree to the handover.

It is not immediately clear whether this process will be affect ted by the power struggle that has ensued since Sata's health failed.