The smooth transfer of power to Zambian Vice President Guy Scott following the death of President Michael Sata on Tuesday is a sign of democracy and political maturity, according to Reuben Lifuka, the head of Transparency International in Zambia.
Zambians are still in shock following the announcement of the untimely death of Sata, who missed the country’s golden anniversary celebrations last week after traveling to the United Kingdom, to seek medical treatment for an undisclosed ailment, Lifuka said.
And it’s not the first time the public has had to absorb such an event. In 2008, the country lost then President Levy Mwanawasa, who died following a stroke at the age of 59.
“Zambians are taking this very strongly. It is something that has happened again and they feel for the first family and his children, and they feel for all the others that have been supportive of the president during his illness, the last couple of months,” he said.
Guy Scott recently told VOA that Zambia has been one of the most peaceful and stable countries in Africa, which he said has attracted both foreign and domestic investors.
Regardless of political affiliation, politicians must put aside their sharp differences there is a national tragedy, Lifuka said.
“One of the defining characteristics of Zambians is that when they are faced with tragedy as the case is at the moment, they tend to unite.”
Succession, party wrangling
Some Zambians are expressing concern that Sata’s death could destabilize the country. This came after leading members of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party jostled to be in line to succeed the late president.
Lifuka said the PF has passed its first major test by ensuring a smooth transfer of power to Vice President Scott as stipulated in the constitution until fresh presidential election is organized within 90 days.
“We don’t see any major challenges cropping up in terms of the fight for succession within the ruling party, between now and the official burial of the president,” he said. “It’s what happens after that, the period after the burial to the time that the elections would be held, because then the ruling party has to come up with a candidate.”
But he added the constitution will prevent the interim president from hanging onto power.
“Unlike in the past with [former] President Mwanawasa, where the vice president, Rupiah Banda, became the automatic choice for a successor, it will not be the case [here] because Vice President and now interim President Guy Scott is not eligible to run for election given our 1996 constitution.”
Lifuka said it is unlikely Zambia will see any major policy changes since the interim president has only a short window of time before a presidential vote must be held.
“Not too many changes will happen,” Lifuka predicted. “Given the fact that elections would be held within 90 days, it is not too long a period for major policy shift.”