Lusaka, Oct 30 (IANS): Appointed acting president of Zambia following Michael Sata's death Tuesday, Guy Scott made history by becoming the first white head of state in sub-Saharan Africa since aparatheid - though a debate rages on his eligibiliity.
Frederik de Klerk of South Africa was the region's last white president, until his party lost to Nelson Mandela's African National Congress in 1994.
Zambia's constitution requires fresh elections within 90 days. Until then, Scott, who is of Scottish descent, assumes interim presidency, CNN reported.
President Sata died while undergoing treatment for an unknown illness in London.
It, however, remains unclear if Scott, who became vice president three years ago, can run for president in the elections, as the country's constitution requires the candidate's parents must be Zambia-born. Scott's parents were not.
Scott was born in 1944 in Livingstone of then British-ruled Northern Rhodesia (which later became Zambia after gaining independence), and studied in Britain.
Shortly after his graduation from Cambridge University and University of Sussex with a degree in economics and a doctorate in cognitive science, Scott returned home and worked for the finance ministry.
He later took a break from politics and ventured into wheat and strawberry farming. But politics wooed him back in in 1990, when he was elected to chair the nation's agriculture committee.
According to a profile on his party website, Scott's participation in Zambian politics was inspired by his late father, who was an ally of Zambian nationalists and a founder of anti-colonial government newspapers including the African Mail, now the Zambia Daily Mail.
His father was a member of parliament for the capital of Lusaka before independence.
According to a report in Lusaka Times, debates about Scott's eligibility to act as president have haunted him since being first appointed Sata's number two.
Sata himself was apparently "unsure about the qualification of Scott as an acting president and he opted to always choose someone else to act in his stead whenever he was away from the country", the report added.
The debate about Scott's eligibility to act as president was forcefully resurrected on blogs and social media after Sata's death Tuesday.
But citing the Constitution, the report said, Scott is qualified to act as president simply because he is qualified to be the vice president.
Acting as president is not the same as standing for elections to the office of the president. The fact that it is temporary is what makes it a lighter affair.
The Zambian Constitution says the vice president should not act only if he is unable “by reason of physical or mental infirmity.” It mentions no other reason for which the vice president would be “unable” to act.