Sata had traveled to London for an unspecified medical treatment last week, and died at a hospital there Tuesday evening, reports stated.
Officials did not disclose the cause of his death.
“It’s shocking, it’s devastating, because I knew he was sick. But I did not know it was going to end this way,” said George Zulu, permanent secretary at the Zambian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “(We) lost a man who devoted his whole life to his country.”
President Barack Obama released the following statement regarding Sata’s death:
“On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I send our condolences to First Lady Dr. Christine Kaseba-Sata and family, as well as the people of Zambia, for the loss of President Michael Chilufya Sata. The United States remains committed to our enduring friendship and partnership with Zambia, and strongly supports a peaceful constitutional transition of power as the country moves forward during this time of sorrow. We will continue to seek opportunities to enhance our bilateral relations, support Zambia’s democratic traditions, increase its development, and bolster its commitment to a free and just society.
According to Zambian officials, Vice President Guy Scott has currently been appointed acting president, but has been deemed ineligible to be formally elected president because his parents were not born in Zambia.
He will reportedly serve for 90 days until elections are held.
Scott will be the first white president since South African President Frederik de Klerk’s party lost to Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress in South Africa’s first multiracial, fully democratic elections in 1994.
Sata took office in September 2011, but not long after he had been elected, speculation reportedly circulated about his lack of visibility within the nation, and whether he was in poor health.
Aides said Sata had been on private international visits, and denied his trips had anything to do with medical treatment, reports said.
He had been born in the Zambian town of Mpika in 1936, and worked as a police officer during the colonial administration.
Sata later trained as a pilot in Russia before returning home and helping develop housing projects in the nation.
Prior to his election, he also served on city council, and had been a member of parliament and Cabinet Minister for local government.
Previously, the copper-rich nation in southern Africa had been ruled by the same party for two decades, according to reports.