Lusaka - Zambian authorities have charged three opposition activists accused of claiming that President Michael Sata was dying, amid rumours over the elderly statesman's health, one of the activists said on Wednesday.
The three supporters of the United Party for National Development are said to have distributed pamphlets in a slum in the capital Lusaka, urging people to vote for their presidential candidate in the 2016 elections, as Sata might die soon.
One of them, Fresher Siwale, told AFP that the charge was fabricated, saying they were “not privy to Sata's health status. It's all political”.
His co-accused, Richard Hijijika and George Chombela have been hit with charges of disseminating false news with intent to cause alarm, while Siwale is accused of a conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace.
The charges carry a maximum sentence of five years. The three are out on bail and will appear in court on July 15.
Rumours about the health of the 76-year-old leader had been doing the rounds in recent weeks.
Sata, who is not often seen in public, was last shown on television last week meeting the Chinese vice president Li Yuanchao.
The president also appeared in court on May 21 to testify in a defamation case in which he is suing a newspaper over a report accusing him of fraud.
Deputy President Guy Scott is currently standing in for Sata, since he left the country last week for Israel, in what has been described as a “working holiday”.
“The president is in Israel on a working holiday and he will in due course meet president Shimon Peres when it's convenient for both presidents,” Scott told parliament on Wednesday.
Scott said he did not know when Sata was due back home.