Zambia’s Guy Scott became Africa’s first white head of state in 20 years on Wednesday after the president, “King Cobra” Michael Sata, died in a London hospital aged 77.
Scott, a Cambridge-educated economist born to Scottish parents, was Sata’s vice president. He takes over as interim leader until an election in three months, making him the first white African leader since South Africa’s F.W. de Klerk lost to Nelson Mandela in the 1994 election that ended apartheid.
“Elections for the office of president will take place within 90 days. In the interim I am acting president,” Scott said in a brief televised address.
“The period of national mourning will start today. We will miss our beloved president and comrade.”
Scott, 70, will not be eligible to run for the presidency because of citizenship restrictions, analysts say.
Sata, an abrasive figure nicknamed “King Cobra” because of his venomous tongue, died on Tuesday in London, where he was receiving medical treatment, the government said earlier. He had been president of Zambia, Africa’s second-largest copper producer since 2011.
The cause of death was not immediately disclosed, but Sata had been ill for some time. He was being treated at London’s King Edward VII hospital when he died, the website Zambian Watchdog reported.
“As you are aware, the president was receiving medical attention in London,” cabinet secretary Roland Msiska announced on state television. “The head of state passed away on October 28. President Sata’s demise is deeply regretted.”