By Mapuor Malual Manguen
Zambians are already on streets chanting their dissatisfactions over sacking of the ruling party Secretary General by interim president Guy Scot. The acting president who also doubles as defacto leader of the ruling party fired Secretary General of ruling Patriotic Front party before his former boss; Michael Sata who died last week is buried.
Michael Sata died in London Clinic of undisclosed illness after disappearing from public scene for many months. His body was flown back to the country on Saturday where it is awaiting state burial on November 11. But, politics of power struggle for a full time successor of the late Sata are spiraling out of control in the southern African country.
The struggle raises question whether the late President will be accorded a dignified burial. Scot’s sacking spree when the country is mourning is seen as insult and reminder to Whiteman’s colonial era where African cultures were considered irrelevant. Guy scot is the first white President to set foot at the helm of the country in Africa after defeat of South Africa’s apartheid white supremacist government in 1994. So, is it the clash of cultures that derived Scot’s decision or is it a succession politics? Obviously it is the later that swept aside everything.
Still, the succession politics after the death of the President is not exclusively a Zambian problem; it is an African phenomenon. In neighboring Malawi for instance, power struggles led to split of the then ruling party after the demise of former President Bingu wa Matharika in April 2012. The current president Peter Matharika logged horns with former vice president Joice Banda – the rightful successor as per constitution – over who should occupy Statehouse following the death of the President in South Africa.
When it comes to context of democracy, African leaders approach it with hypocrisy despite its explicit text in the constitution. For African strongmen (presidents), succession politics means grooming their siblings or relatives for President after their retirement. Some resort to constitutional amendment to allow them rule for life until they die in power after which their next of kin becomes automatic successor. We have seen living examples in Gabon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Togo where sons of deceased Presidents became automatic Presidents to date. This practice is borrowed from African traditional political arrangement where son or brother of a village Chief would be enthroned upon his death.
Another obstacle to smooth succession is the issue of court cases file against former heads of state after their exit from corridors of power. This is the most avoided problem by sitting presidents. But, avoiding court cases during retirement is a very fluid undertaking. You have to die in power in Africa to avoid political witch-hunt because no one will take dead president to court.
The author is journalist, blogger and political commentator. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org