Michael Sata, a longtime opposition leader in Zambia who won a populist campaign for the presidency in 2011, has died, leaving behind a mixed legacy, a bounty of acerbic comments and a murky race to succeed him as leader of one of Africa’s top copper producers.
Sata died Tuesday evening at a London hospital where he had been receiving medical treatment, Zambia’s Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda said Wednesday. He was 77 years old.
Sata’s spokesman said last week that he had left the country for a “medical checkup,” but refused to describe his ailments in detail even as he retreated from public for more than three months this year.
After a meeting in the capital, Lusaka, cabinet ministers on Wednesday appointed Vice President Guy Scott to succeed Sata for 90 days while he organizes elections, as per Zambia’s constitution. Scott would be the first white man to lead an African country since F.W. de Klerk lost South Africa’s presidency to Nelson Mandela in 1994.
But the 70-year-old politician isn’t eligible to run for president because his parents were born in Britain. Zambia’s constitution states that a presidential candidate’s parents must be born in the country. A Cambridge University-trained economist born in Zambia’s tourist hub of Livingstone, Scott is a key figure in the ruling Patriotic Front party. There are about 40,000 white Zambians, descended from Europeans who settled in Zimbabwe, Angola and South Africa in the colonial era.
A woman who answered Scott’s phone on Wednesday declined to make him available for comment.
Sata, who was nicknamed “King Cobra” for his venomous remarks about opponents and colleagues alike, didn’t fit the mold of the modern African strongman. He came to power after more than a decade as an opposition-party leader. In a reasonably fair election in 2011, his triumph ended the two-decade rule by the Movement for Multiparty Democracy party on a continent where peaceful transfers of power are rare.
Read more at online.wsj.com