Lusaka – Zambia’s cabinet passed a vote of no confidence in interim president Guy Scott on Wednesday and asked him to resign, intensifying a power struggle within the ruling party ahead of an election next month.
The ruling Patriotic Front (PF) has been rocked by a bitter leadership dispute since president Michael Sata died in October and was replaced by his deputy Scott, who become Africa’s first white head of state in 20 years.
Scott is ineligible to run for president in a 20 January election because his parents were born abroad.
Fourteen out of seventeen PF ministers supported the vote of no confidence and called for an urgent cabinet meeting to discuss Scott’s removal, Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba said.
“Clearly the confidence and trust we reposed in Dr Scott was totally misplaced and he has since abused our trust.”
Cabinet ministers have the right to remove the president in an official vote. Attorney General Musa Mwenye, who is a Scott supporter, is likely to oppose the move, but despite being a powerful and influential figure he can only advise and cabinet could remove Scott without his approval.
Zambia’s high court declared Defence Minister Edgar Lungu the PF’s candidate this month, but a faction loyal to Scott elected economist Miles Sampa as its leader and said it would take the matter to the supreme court.
The supreme court sent the case back to the high court to give Sampa a hearing that is expected to take place on Thursday.
Questions about Zambia’s stability arose when Scott fired Lungu as PF secretary general on 3 November without explaining why, before reinstating him a day later after street protests.
Divisions in the PF could open the door to an opposition party candidate winning the election, an outcome that would create political uncertainty in one of Africa’s most promising frontier markets.