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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Zambia’s Interim President Guy Scott
Zambia’s former president, Michael Sata, died Oct. 28, 2014, leaving Vice President Guy Scott in charge. Though Scott is in an interim role — presidential elections must be held within 90 days — the acting leader is still the leader. Here are 10 things you didn’t known about Zambia’s Interim President Guy Scott.

His parents emigrated to Zambia from the U.K.

Scott will be unable to run in the upcoming presidential election due to a parentage clause in the Zambian constitution that states that candidates must be at least third-generation Zambians. There is a chance that a previous judgment by the Zambian Supreme Court, made in a similar case in 1998, might validate him as a candidate. Scott’s father, Alec Scott, emigrated to Zambia from Scotland in 1927. His mother, Grace, came over from England in 1940.

Scott made controversial comments regarding South Africa

In an interview with The Guardian in 2013, Scott referred to South Africans as “backward” with regard to historical development. He said South Africa was too “big and unsubtle,” and asserted, “I hate South Africans. That’s not a fair thing to say because I do like a lot of South Africans but they really think they’re the bees’ knees and actually they’ve been the cause of so much trouble in this part of the world.”

He set up an agribusiness venture in 1970, known as Walkover Estates

Walkover Estates was a high-value crop agribusiness that specialized in irrigated wheat, strawberries, and a wide variety of off-season vegetables. Scott became well known as a fair and involved employer who regularly sold his crops in Sainsbury’s — the second largest chain of supermarkets in the U.K.

Scott is a technocrat

Scott is known for his intellectual curiosity and lengthy education, having achieved several degrees from prestigious universities. He earned a degree in economics from Cambridge University, spent time studying robotics at Oxford University, and finished by earning a Ph.D. in cognitive science and artificial intelligence from the University of Sussex. Scott has also always been fascinated by eastern religions as well as language, and has earned respect of many Zambians for speaking a local language and understanding traditional customs.

He has a close relationship with Zimbabwe’s controversial leader, Robert Mugabe

Much like the late President Sata, Scott believes that keeping Zimbabwe within the diplomatic fold is better than alienating Zambia’s close neighbor. Despite Robert Mugabe’s sial leadership, Scott has maintained a close relationship with him, describing him as a “funny chap,” and asserting that “…any good African nationalist admires Mugabe. Racism in Zimbabwe is a serious issue. I was sent to school down there and it was like being in the Hitler Youth: the theories about black inferiority and this kind of stuff…I think Mugabe is a product of having to contend with that.” Scott also disclosed in a 2013 interview that he thought Mugabe was ready to step down from power, “I think if you asked him he’d say it was enough. That’s what he said to us a few months ago. I said the way forward in African democracy is the way we do it in Zambia. He said, ‘I absolutely agree, I wish it would happen to me.’”

Scott earned the gratitude and respect of many Zambians when he helped manage the “drought of the century” in 1992

In January and February 1992, Zambia experienced one of the worst droughts in its human history, and had no corn reserves to help stave off famine. At the time, Scott was serving as the minister of agriculture, food and fisheries. He helped make emergency arrangements to import corn from overseas and move it across Zambia, despite the lack of efficient rails or road networks. He was also instrumental in overseeing the recovery effort to ensure Zambia’s economy did not suffer too greatly, enacting policy reforms that moved relief effort responsibilities to nongovernmental aid and development organizations – rather than the state – to help the “bumper harvest” of 1992-1993, based on the principle of food-for-work.

He has described himself as “Africa’s first white democratic leader”

Scott has captured the world’s attention as the first white African leader (on the continental mainland, at least) since F.W. de Klerk stepped down at the end of apartheid in South Africa in 1994. The new president says race is not an issue with his leadership, and that he will continue to represent the interests of the entire nation. He said, “You see people’s jaws drop, they think there’s been a mistake with the seating plan or something. A white Zambian but not representing white interests, that’s the point.”

Scott and the late President Sata had a close relationship

Scott often acted as intermediary between the late President Sata, known as “King Cobra” for his sharp tongue, and other government ministers. Despite different races and parties, the two were close political allies and friends, and were known for their banter. Scott has told stories that underline this relationship, and demonstrated that he could give as good as he got, “He (Sata) says things like, ‘What would you be if you weren’t white?’ I said, ‘The president?’ That shut him up.”

He credits his acceptance as a white leader to Zambia’s stability and tolerance

Zambia is known as one of the more stable democracies in southern Africa, and one that has experienced less racial violence than many of its neighbors – an impressive fact, given that the nation was home to 72 different indigenous communities at the time of independence. Scott has achieved significant political success and acceptance partly due to the fact that Zambia’s white farming community did not obstruct black majority aspirations, and that Scott followed in his father’s footsteps by campaigning for anti-colonialist causes. In an interview with The Spectator, he notes that his success may not have been possible in neighboring countries. “I don’t think I would be nearly as welcome in South Africa, for example. Or West Africa. I get the suspicion they are pretty dubious, wondering what a white man is doing there. But for some reason, I’m very popular here.”

Scott has been plagued by health concerns

Scott is known to have several health worries of his own, including a right-hand tremble that may point to the possibility of developing Parkinson’s. He also has concerns of possible cancer under one eye, but has joked about his health in public. “In my age group, there is on average six things wrong with you at any one time,” he said. He has talked about wanting to retire peacefully on his farm outside Lusaka. It appears unlikely he will challenge the constitutional clause barring his entry into the upcoming presidential election.

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