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Zambia succession battle spills to the courts

13 November 2014, 16:00

Lusaka - The battle to succeed late Zambian president Michael Sata has entered the courts, with supporters of one contender claiming that his right to take over as interim president had been unlawfully denied.

Court documents seen on Thursday show former education minister Newton Nguni is seeking a reversal of the decision by the cabinet and Attorney General to hand power to Vice President Guy Scott.

He said the move was illegal and was carried out under threats, and wants Scott to surrender power to the Defence and Justice Minister Edgar Lungu.

Lungu had been left in charge of the country by Sata when he left for medical treatment in Britain.

Nguni alleged that Scott and the cabinet had forced Lungu to relinquish power "threatening that if that did not happen... Lungu and other cabinet ministers would be charged with treason."

The country's constitution stipulates that the vice president should become acting president until elections are held within 90 days of the death of the incumbent leader.

"The cabinet meeting that purportedly resolved that the instruments of power be transferred to Dr Scott had no authority to discuss such transfer of power as there was no vacuum of power because the instruments of power were already being held by Mr Lungu," said Nguni in the petition to the High Court.

Lungu, who is also secretary general of the ruling Patriotic Front, is at the centre of a post-Sata succession battle.

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Scott, Africa's first white head of state since apartheid, is due to guide the copper-rich southern African nation of 15 million people to elections.

Bigwigs of the governing party met Thursday to pick a candidate to represent them in presidential elections.

The name is yet to be announced.

Scott and Lungu belong to rival factions within the ruling party.

As the country mourned Sata last week, Scott sacked Lungu from his party job as secretary general, sparking riots. He later reversed the decision.

The 70-year-old Scott is excluded from the race because of foreign parentage rules in Zambia's 1996 constitution.

In a eulogy at the burial of Sata this week, African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma called for a "smooth leadership transition."

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