Zambian politics were thrown into turmoil Tuesday after acting President Guy Scott sacked the secretary general of the ruling party, sparking riots and a rejection of his authority.
Supporters of Patriotic Front Secretary General Edgar Lungu — who was fired just days after the death of president Michael Sata — rampaged overnight in the capital Lusaka, stoning motorists and burning tyres.
Lungu, who is at the centre of a succession battle following Sata’s death, accused Scott of insulting Zambian culture while the country was mourning Sata’s death and declared his sacking illegal and provocative.
Scott, Africa’s first white head of state since apartheid, was previously the vice president and is due to guide the copper-rich nation to elections within 90 days.
“I have learnt with deep regret the illegal and provocative action taken by Dr Scott purporting to dismiss me as secretary general of the party,” said Lungu, who is also minister of defence and of justice.
“But most importantly Dr Scott has insulted our culture and the people of Zambia by constantly engaging himself in matters that undermine the dignity, honour and respect of the funeral of president Michael Sata,” he said in a statement.
Scott’s problems mounted as the man he named to replace Lungu as secretary general of the ruling Patriotic Front turned the job down.
“I have declined the appointment, it’s against our culture to accept an appointment when we are still mourning. We have to bury our president first,” Davis Mwila told AFP.
Lungu had been tapped by Sata as caretaker leader when the late 77-year-old left the country for medical treatment last month.
Sata died in London of an unspecified ailment, and the cabinet appointed Scott acting president in line with the constitution. Sata will be buried on November 11.
On Tuesday morning, supporters of Lungu were seen assembling in several townships in preparation for more protests.
“Can you believe it that, 50 years after independence, we have a white man as president?” Willy Phiri, a party supporter, said to AFP in Lusaka’s Olympia area.
“He comes and starts to fire genuine members. Edgar is our member and Guy wants to take us back to colonialism. We won’t accept it, Guy has to go,” he said.