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Africa's first white leader in decades is no surprise in Zambia

October 30 2014, 14:59

Guy Scott, a white man, is now interim president of an African country.Guy Scott, a white man, is now interim president of an African country.Zambians have welcomed the news that Guy Scott is interim president. His skin color and British heritage -- the facts most Western media picked up on -- isn't an issue for most Zambians, writes DW's Chiponda Chimbelu.

It wasn't the news of the death of the President of Zambia which garnered attention around the world, but the announcement that Guy Scott, a white man, was now interim president of an African country, dw.de reports.

Having grown up in Zambia, the news came as no surprise to me. Guy Scott has been involved in Zambian politics for years. He served as Minister of Agriculture in the country's first democratically-elected government -- a position that allowed him to play a strategic role in steering the country out of a food crisis from 1991 to 1992.

Later, Scott resigned from his post and founded his own party. He worked with other politicians opposing the ruling MMD party. In 2001, he joined the Patriotic Front, which was founded by Michael Sata who had also served as a minister in the cabinet of Zambia's first democratically-elected government. Until October 29, 2014, Scott served as Michael Sata's vice-president.

The white patriot

Guy Scott is a Zambian patriot. He was born in 1944 in Livingstone - a town that lies on the country's border with Zimbabwe. Scott's father emigrated to Northern Rhodesia (as Zambia was called before independence) in 1927. Scott senior was politically involved and helped fight for African rights. And even the young Guy Scott played a role in Zambia's fight for independence.

"I've been involved in politics here for a long time. As a schoolboy I was involved in the liberation movement," he said in an interview with The Telegraph in 2012.

Scott's biography gives just as much credibility to holding high political office in Zambia as some other families whose names are well known by locals because they played a role in founding the nation.

That's something many western media outlets apparently find worthy of focusing on. In Zambia, however, Scott is seen as a fellow African. "He is a black man in a white man's skin," Nathan Phiri, a bus driver in the capital, told Reuters when asked for a reaction to the news. "The very fact that we accepted him as vice-president shows that we consider him one of us."

Repeatedly Scott has shown that he represents the majority of Zambia. He partnered with the populist Michael Sata, has a friendly relationship with Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe. When asked about controversial issues like gay rights, his response shows that he has chosen to side with the masses. He says that Zambia has bigger problems than the rights of a small minority.

Caretaker president

It is only fitting that someone like Guy Scott should be interim president. He was Michael Sata's running mate during the last general elections in September 2011. The electorate knew that they would also be voting for him as vice president - giving him the right to take over if the president died.

The fact that his parents weren't born in Zambia disqualifies him from standing in the next presidential elections that will be held in 90 days. Zambia's constitution was changed by the second president, Frederick Chiluba, to prevent the first president, Kenneth Kaunda, from ever standing for re-election because his parents were born in neighboring Malawi. The fact that Scott cannot run for president means that he might be less concerned than other politicians in his own party who will be trying to position themselves to be Zambia's next leader in the coming weeks.

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