NAIROBI, Kenya — Zambia’s President Michael Sata died in a London hospital on Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning his deputy, Vice President Guy Scott, was named interim leader, setting off a flurry of interest normally reserved for coups and coronations.
Why the furor over this peaceful, orderly and constitutional transfer of power? Well, Scott’s white.
The last white president in Africa was South Africa's F.W. de Klerk, the last of the apartheid-era white minority leaders. In 1994 de Klerk lost an election to Nelson Mandela.
Here are five more things besides his race you should know about Africa’s newest president.
1. He’s old
Then-Vice President Guy Scott talks with US President Barack Obama and President of Mozambique Armando Guebuza at the US-Africa Leaders Summit in August. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Scott is 70, which is a pensionable age in many countries but puts him on a par with many of his colleagues among Africa’s aging leadership. It’s younger than his predecessor, Sata, who was 77 when he died this week.
2. He’s Zambian
Victoria Falls. (Getty Images)
Scott was born in Livingstone, next to Victoria Falls, and grew up in the country although he was educated in Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia) and the UK.
3. He won’t last long
A Zambian man casts his vote in Lusaka in 2008. (Getty Images)
Scott is Zambian but his parents were British, which means that he is not eligible to run for the presidency when elections are held 90 days from now.
4. He’s no political neophyte
Malawi's Speaker of Parliament Henry Chimunthu Banda escorts then-Vice President Guy Scott to inspect a military parade in 2011. (Getty Images)
Scott entered Zambian politics in 1990 and became a lawmaker the following year. Before being named vice president in 2011 he had served as agriculture minister.
5. He’s not very presidential
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe visits the Zambia National Service Gardens in Lusaka in 2012. (Getty Images)
Scott is known for his irreverence and willingness to say what he thinks. He’s called South Africans “backward," described Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe (his neighbor) as “a funny chap,” said his own time at a whites-only school was “like being in the Hitler youth,” and once told a journalist how Sata would joke about Scott's white privilege, asking him, “What would you be if you weren't white?” Scott’s reply? "The president.”