Zambian President, Edgar Lungu

Johannesburg -

Zambia’s new President Edgar Lungu is in Johannesburg for medical tests and possible surgery for an ailment which he himself said could prove fatal if not treated immediately.

He arrived on Tuesday and was due to have a specialist medical examination on Wednesday.

The SABC interviewed Lungu at Milpark Hospital on Tuesday and reported that he had been admitted there. But Zambian officials insisted that he was just visiting a former MP colleague and that he returned to his hotel in Pretoria on Tuesday night.

They said that he would consult a doctor elsewhere on Wednesday.

Lungu, who was elected in January after his predecessor Michael Sata died in office, was remarkably frank about his health in the interview with the SABC.

He looked fine as he talked to a reporter outside Milpark Hospital and also said he felt fine and could continue working. “But you can’t take these things for granted because what they detect could prove fatal in the near future or far future. So they (the doctors) think it’s better to seize it in time.”

Lungu felt ill while addressing a meeting in Zambia on Sunday. Officials said he was suffering from a narrowing of his oesophagus, which carries food from the mouth to the stomach.

“The doctors thought it important they take further examinations… and there should be surgery or whatever they prescribe,” he said.

Officials said Lungu had come to South Africa because the specialised medical skill needed to diagnose his condition was not available in Zambia.

When it was put to him that he was being “unusually upfront” about his health for a head of state, Lungu said; “We are coming from a history of having lost two heads of state in office and I think (Zambians) are anxious to know the state of their president.

“So I am explaining where we are. If I’m unfit for duty, I will be the first to say ‘sorry I can’t continue.’ I think that’s how it should be.”

President Levy Mwanawasa died in office in 2008.

Nicky Shabolyo, press secretary of the Zambian High Commission in Pretoria, said Lungu had touched down in the presidential aircraft at Lanseria Airport at about 5pm on Tuesday and had immediately driven to Milpark Hospital to visit former Chimwemwe member of parliament, Willie Nsanda.

He was accompanied by First Lady Esther Lungu and other officials. “The President was happy to see that Mr Nsanda was showing good signs of recovery.”

Lungu had thanked President Jacob Zuma, for making available the medical facilities and for the warm reception that he, together with his delegation, have received.

“He said this goes to emphasise the cordial relations that exist between the two countries,” Shabolyo said.