Zambia's acting president, Guy Scott, has rejected a call by Cabinet ministers to step down before a presidential election next month.
Scott said in a statement Wednesday he will not resign because there is no provision in the Zambian constitution for such a demand. He said only he has the power to call a Cabinet meeting, and any other meeting of Cabinet ministers constitutes "a serious act of treason."
The acting president said he will stay in power until the election is held on January 20, 2015. Scott is ineligible to run in the election because his parents were not born in Zambia.
Scott became Africa's first white head of state in 20 years in October, when President Michael Sata died and Scott, as Sata's deputy, replaced him.
Late Tuesday, 14 of Zambia's 17 cabinet members voted to ask Scott to resign.
These events are the result of power struggles within the ruling Patriotic Front party, which is embroiled in a leadership dispute. Critics of the president want defense minister Edgar Lungu to run as their party's presidential candidate, while the faction loyal to Scott back economist Miles Sampa.
Fourteen out of seventeen PF ministers supported the vote of no confidence Wednesday and called for an urgent Cabinet meeting to discuss Scott's removal, foreign affairs minister Harry Kalaba said.
“As Cabinet we have noted that Dr. Scott has persistently worked against the interest of the party,” Kalaba said in a statement on behalf of the 14 ministers.
“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 defense 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 Nov. 3, 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.
Some Reuters information was used in this report.