The body of Michael Sata, Zambia’s president who died last week in London, was returned to his home country on Saturday as splits within his ruling party grew over who will take power next.

Guy Scott, the white vice-president, stepped into the role of acting president for three months until emergency elections are held and has been tipped by some as a possible candidate to run in the polls because of his closeness to the popular former leader.

But he is facing questions about his suitability even to act as interim leader by those who say he is barred from high office because his parents were not born in Zambia.

Cambridge-educated Mr Scott, who was reported to have rung military chiefs after Mr Sata’s death to ask for their support, says he has the backing of the Attorney General as well as cabinet.

Despite being the first democratic white leader in mainland Africa, he has dismissed the interest in his colour, telling local journalists: “I may be white on the outside, but my blood is black.”

In a reflection of the tensions in the former British protectorate, security has been stepped up around the acting president and military snipers have been stationed on the roof of the public broadcaster, ostensibly to ward off a coup.

Mr Scott was chosen by Zambia’s cabinet to take over as acting president from Edgar Lungu, the Defence Minister, after Mr Sata died.

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