On January 25th, Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front party was elected president of Zambia, succeeding the temporary president Guy Scott. Scott was ineligible to be president as Zambia’s constitution requires that the president have both parents of Zambian ancestry; Scott is of Scottish and English ancestry. Lungu, a former defense and justice minister, assumes the role of president at a delicate time for Zambia. Zambia, one of the world’s largest producers of copper, is struggling with an economic recession caused by the decline in demand for copper as well as a series of disputes over taxation with mining companies.
Earlier on the Free Fire blog we reported on former Zambian president Michael Sata’s death, and what it could mean for Zambian mineral policy. It remains to be seen whether Edgar Lungu will continue the policies of the deceased former President Michael Sata. After a shooting of striking miners by Chinese supervisors, Michael Sata forced all foreign mining companies operating in Zambia to operate by a strict set of labor laws. However, with the recent depreciation of copper prices, Zambia has found itself in tough economic straits; earlier this month Zambia raised mining royalties up to 20%, forcing several mines to operate at a loss. As Lungu takes over the presidency he will be faced with a number of hard decisions regarding the mining industry. How he responds to those challenges may set the stage for his entire presidency.