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Mundia Sikatana, facing camera

LUSAKA – Zambia’s sacked foreign minister, Mundia Sikatana has refuted President Levy Mwanawasa’s assertion that his health was failing.

Sikatana told reporters over the weekend that he was very fit and that he was forced out because of his on how to handle such issues as the Zimbabwe crisis for which the president is backing down from his previous criticism of President Robert Mugabe’s policies that have plunged Zambia’s once prosperous southern neighbour into a basket case. 

However, Sikatana continued criticizing Mugabe and his own boss whom he recently told to “let your attention be on Zimbabwe. Zimbabweans are flocking looking for food in the region”. 

Mwanawasa, who recently took over as SADC chairman, sacked his foreign minister and close ally saying his health appears to be failing but without giving a concrete reason for the move. 

Mwanawasa said in a statement released to state media that Sikatana had been sacked with immediate effect. 

“I very much regret that I am terminating your services as minister of foreign affairs with immediate effect,” Mwanawasa said in excerpts of his letter to Sikatana contained in the statement. 

Mwanawasa said Sikatana, a nominated member of parliament, would retain his parliamentary seat until it is revoked. 

But Sikatana told reporters he had turned down the offer to remain in parliament because it was not an effective use of his time. 

Mwanawasa replaced Sikatana with Tourism Minister Kabinga Pande and promoted his deputy, Michael Kaingu, as tourism minister. 

Sikatana also accused the government of Sudan in July of complicating the crisis in the Darfur region, a no-no in African politics where brother regimes are criticized at one’s peril.