Guest post by Andrew J. Novak
After months of rumors about his declining health, Zambian president Michael Chilufya Sata died in a London hospital last night at age 77.
Sata had missed important public events over the past several weeks, including a prominent speech to the United Nations General Assembly, and he appeared unwell at the opening of the Zambian parliament on September 19. Reflecting a level of secrecy that became characteristic of Sata’s three years in office, the Zambian government has still not disclosed the nature of his illness.
Sata was elected in September 2011 on his fourth attempt when he defeated then-president Rupiah Banda, who had himself succeeded president Levy Mwanawasa in 2008 when Mwanawasa died and Banda won reelection by a soft margin three months later. Sata’s death — not unexpected, but swirled in secrecy — is reminiscent of Mwanawasa’s incapacitation. His stroke in summer 2008 sparked widespread rumors and even premature announcements of his death until his condition finally deteriorated in August 2008.
Just as in 2008, the Zambian government has been on ‘autopilot’ since Sata’s health started to fail. And also as in 2008, a new interim leader was appointed, with new elections to be held within 90 days under the Zambian constitution.
This time, however, the situation in Zambia has generated significantly more interest than in 2008, with vice president Guy Scott, an economist and agricultural entrepreneur from Livingstone in southern Zambia, has taken the helm as Zambia’s leader.
Scott is also white, the son of two Scottish immigrants who moved to what was then the British colony of Northern Rhodesia before World War Two, which makes him the first white head of state in mainland sub-Saharan Africa since F.W. de Klerk ruled apartheid South Africa in 1994 and the first white leader of a democratically elected government (though it’s worth noting that Ian Khama, Botswana’s president, was reelected last weekend after a contentious race, and is of mixed-race descent). Continue reading Sata’s death gives Zambia a white president in Guy Scott