Power Struggle in Zambia Intensifies With Suspension of Acting President

21 November 2014
Author 
Zambia's ruling Patriotic Front (PF) has suspended President Guy Scott as party leader amid a power struggle ahead of elections in January. Pic. AFP

LONDON — A struggle over who will succeed the late President Michael Sata of Zambia intensified on Friday when members of the governing Patriotic Front said Guy Scott, the acting president, had been suspended from the party but would remain the country’s interim leader, according to news reports.

Malozo Sichone, a member of the Patriotic Front central committee, said the panel had decided to suspend Mr. Scott for “unconstitutional conduct and for abrogating the party constitution,” reports said. Mr. Scott was also accused of influencing the news media to further his cause.

Mr. Sata, 77, died late last month and Mr. Scott — a Cambridge-educated economist and former farmer who had been vice president — took over as acting president to oversee a transition to elections on Jan. 20

Critics of Mr. Scott, the first white leader in Africa for two decades, say he is disqualified from running for the presidency because his parents were not born in Zambia, as required by the Constitution.

There was no immediate response to the suspension from Mr. Scott, who has been at loggerheads with Edgar Lungu, the minister of defense and the leader of a rival faction in the Patriotic Front.

Mr. Lungu, who is seen as a front-runner in the contest, is said to believe that the central committee, made up of 53 members, should choose the party’s candidate for president.

Mr. Scott and other contenders are said to prefer that a general conference of thousands of delegates should make the party’s choice.

Tensions between the two factions have been sharpening since before Mr. Sata’s death, when he chose Mr. Lungu to stand in for him when he traveled to London for medical treatment. Mr. Sata, nicknamed King Cobra for his acerbic tongue, had been in ill health for months.

In early November, Mr. Scott fired Mr. Lungu as party secretary general, but quickly reinstated him after protests on the streets. At the same time, one of Mr. Lungu’s supporters, Newton Nguni, brought a legal challenge to Mr. Scott’s appointment as interim leader.

The Patriotic Front came to power in 2011 after several failed attempts at earlier elections in Zambia, a landlocked, copper-rich nation in central Africa.

The long list of politicians seeking the presidency on the Patriotic Front ticket includes Mr. Sata’s son Mulenga Sata, the mayor of Lusaka, the capital, and the president’s widow, Christine Kaseba, Reuters reported.

Source: The New York Times

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