Elias Mbao reports on the new Zambian vice president, Guy Scott, of British descent but born and bred in Zambia. Though much liked by the locals, and having lived all his 57 years in the country, he doesn’t speak the dominant local language, Bemba. But he could one day become president.
Zambia has made history – 47 years after independence from British rule – by appointing a vice president of British descent called Guy Scott. Many Zambians, however, regard Guy Scott as “a black man in white skin”. He mingles with people of all classes and races, and dresses casually.
Born in 1944 in Livingstone town in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) to a Scottish father and English mother, Dr Scott has lived all his life in Zambia, with the exception of a few years of studies in Britain, where he taught at Oxford University. This writer had an exclusive interview with Dr Scott, the son of a medical doctor and a newspaper editor, at his private farmhouse in early October as he awaited relocation to Government House, the official residence of the Republican Vice President in the capital city, Lusaka.
“I spent the first few years in Livingstone, but I was basically brought up in Lusaka,” said Dr Scott, explaining that he had a “perfectly ordinary schooling” in Zambia at a time when most white children were sent to South Africa for studies.
“My father was an independent MP for Lusaka in 1953,” he said. Interestingly, Dr Scott is the current MP for Lusaka Central.
Racism was rampant during his childhood, but his multi-talented father espoused liberal ideologies and anti-racism, a rare attribute in those days. Evidently, the young Scott had those values embedded in him at a tender age. That is why, he says, classifying people according to colour is a waste of time.
“I was very unpopular for [being anti-racist] at the all-white boarding school where they still thought whites could keep power for 100 years. I disagreed and they used to attack me very often,” Dr Scott said. “But that was just toughening me up for later days in Zambian politics.”
After his primary education, young Scott proceeded to Cambridge University, where he studied economics before flying back home to work for the Zambian Government. But that was only for a short period. He quit and took up farming.
Around 1980, Scott and his family relocated to Britain, where he enrolled for a doctorate degree in Cognitive Science – a mix of psychology and computer science – at Sussex University. Dr Scott then moved to Oxford University, where he taught in the engineering department.
With the reintroduction of multiparty politics in Zambia in 1990, he returned home to go in to politics. He was elected chairman of agriculture in the newly-born Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) in 1991 at the party’s first convention. It was at this convention that he met Michael Sata – who was later to become his close political ally – now President of Zambia.
As an MP
“I told him [Mr Sata] that ‘I want a rural seat because I am the chairman of agriculture. I can’t be sitting in Lusaka’. He said ‘Okay, you take my seat in Mpika Central’,” explained Dr Scott about the genesis of his ties with Mr Sata.
Though he can’t speak the local Bemba language, Dr Scott still managed to win the seat with 92 per cent of votes cast, thanks to the revolutionary mood in the country, with people wanting to oust President Kenneth Kaunda’s 27-year-old system of one-party rule.
Upon the MMD’s election to government in 1991, the new president, Fredrick Chiluba, appointed Dr Scott as minister of agriculture, and it was not long before he faced his fast headache.
Zambia, without food reserves, was hit by a 14-month drought in 1992 that left thousands starving. “Despite the challenges, we managed to control the situation and save lives,” Dr Scott said.
But, in 1993, President Chiluba fired Dr Scott alongside a cabinet colleague who was accused of trying to topple the government. That notwithstanding, Scott maintained his parliamentary seat until 1996.
He and other colleagues then formed the Lima Party, which proved a bad move and was shelved soon after. Afterwards, Dr Scott quit politics.
“Then in 2001, Mr Sata phoned me up and said: ‘Hello, when are we going to take over the country?’ I said: ‘In 10 years’ time’… and I was correct!”
Over the last decade, Dr Scott and Mr Sata – at first dismissed as two jokers – have relentlessly crisscrossed the country canvassing for votes. And, as predicted by Dr Scott, 10 years on, the duo has taken over the running of Zambia’s affairs.
“We were obviously doing something right… Our juju was stronger than our opponent’s juju,” said Dr Scott in jest. “Mr Sata taught me politics at his academy for promising politicians. In politics you don’t think like an accountant or a driver; you think strategically and Mr Sata is good at it.”
That strategy earned him the presidency, and now Dr Scott is relived that the man who promised him heaven has finally delivered.
“As a politician, Mr Sata could have said, ‘Guy Scott has done his job of getting the votes and raising some money, now I can abandon him’. But he hasn’t abandoned me. He has kept the faith, which shows he is a man of loyalty to his colleagues who have shown loyalty to him,” Dr Scott said.
Zambians have set an example on
anti-racism, he said, and other Africans need to learn from this. “People would prefer that we move forward and do not remain static in colonialism nonsense,” he added.
Dr Scott has been married twice. His first marriage, which ended after his wife refused to return to Zambia with him in 1990, bore him three male children.
“Then I met a very nice girl [his current wife, Charlotte] who was introduced to me by Michael Sata. You see, these are all secret connections you guys have to fish out. Michael Sata said, ‘You need a wife, here is a wife.’ ” The couple adopted a Zambian child.
A chief’s misgivings
Though few bother about Dr Scott’s race, Paramount Chief Chitimukulu of Mr Sata’s homeland of Northern Province raised issues with the Briton’s high-flying political career.
In 2009, Chitimukulu – a known supporter of former President Rupiah Banda – denounced “Mr Sata’s decision to pick a white man as his vice”, querying who would replace the 74-year-old politician if he died since his deputy was “a white man”.
Chitimukulu told Mr Banda – when the then President visited him at the palace – that Zambians fought for independence, and that having a white man as Republican vice-president or president would mean the independence struggle was in vain.
The racial remarks attracted denunciation from several Zambians. “The reasons Chitimukulu gives for his refusal to accept Guy Scott as a potential Republican vice-president belong to the dustbin of an uncivilised society,” wrote Benson Chipungu in Zambia’s The Post.
In an editorial opinion, The Post stated: “Guy is a Zambian and qualifies in every way to stand for any political office of his choice in this country. The colour of his skin should never be a barrier.”
The pre-election legal battle questioning Mr Banda’s eligibility to stand for the presidency on the basis that one or both his parents were Malawians still haunts Zambians with foreign parentage. Until the law that requires that both parents of the presidential candidate must be Zambians by birth or descent is changed, one’s nationality or race still has a bearing on Zambia’s politics.
But for Dr Scott, Zambia is more motherland than Britain or Scotland will ever be. It is, thus, very probable that he could be president after Sata bows out.