Zambian Vice President Guy Scott has been appointed as the country’s acting head of state, following the death of President Michael Sata.
Sata, who was long said to be seriously ill, died Tuesday while undergoing medical treatment for an undisclosed disease at London’s King Edward VII Hospital.
Scott was sworn in as Zambia’s acting president on Wednesday, making him the first Caucasian leader of an African country since FW de Klerk, the last head of state of South Africa during the apartheid era.
The 77-year-old economist will take up the interim role until Zambia goes for a presidential by-election, which according to the country’s Defence and Justice Minister Edgar Lungu is likely to be held within 90 days.
Scott, who was born to Scottish parents, is not eligible to run for the presidency because of foreign parentage rules in Zambia’s 1996 Constitution.
Political analysts say Lungu and Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda are the most likely contenders for the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party.
Outside the PF, however, the former president, Rupiah Banda, has hinted at a possible return to politics.
“I am legally eligible to stand,” Banda was quoted as saying earlier this month, citing calls from his supporters to return to the political fray.
Sata was elected Zambia’s president following a tight presidential race against Banda in September 2011.
His successor will have to tackle unemployment, poverty and corruption, which are Zambia’s main challenges.
According to official reports, Zambia’s unemployment rate stands at a staggering 65 percent. An estimated 60 percent of Zambian people also reportedly live on less than a dollar a day.
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