A former British Rail porter swapped Victoria Station's plastic identity badge for presidential trappings yesterday as Zambia swore in a new democratically elected leader amid jubilant scenes in the capital, Lusaka.
Michael Sata (74), a fiery populist nicknamed King Cobra for his sharp tongue, has promised to rein in China's increasing dominance in his copper-rich country and ensure the poor get a greater share of the wealth its mines have generated.
This week's election in Zambia was the fourth Mr Sata has contested and places the former British protectorate among a select few in Africa who have seen their ruling parties change twice, democratically and peacefully, since independence.
Election monitors confirmed that, despite sporadic rioting in which two people were killed and fears of a repeat of the election upsets of Ivory Coast or Zimbabwe, the vote had been free and fair, with Mr Sata polling 43pc to outgoing president Rupiah Banda's 36pc.
Mr Banda was in tears as he conceded his defeat and urged his successor to safeguard Zambia's hard-won freedoms.
"My generation -- the generation of the independence struggle -- must now give way to new ideas; ideas for the 21st Century," Mr Banda said.
Tens of thousands of Zambians lined the streets and scaled walls and trees to catch a glimpse of Mr Sata as he travelled to the Supreme Court.
On its steps, flanked by Mr Banda and post-independence president Kenneth Kaunda, he recited his oath of allegiance.
"I will discharge my duties as president diligently, and I take my responsibility without fear or favour," he said in a ceremony broadcast live on national television.
As his presidency was confirmed and balloons and a dove were released into the air, the crowd chanted: "Let's go Sata, let's go!"
The Catholic father of eight won popularity among the urban poor and workers in the Copper Belt with a promise that within 90 days of taking office he would "restore Zambian dignity and change and transform the country".
He has stuck to a pledge to reinstate a mining windfall tax and tighten currency controls to help the two-thirds of Zambians living on less than $2 (€1.50) a day.
William Hague, Britain's Foreign Secretary, welcomed Mr Sata's emergence. "I look forward to working with President Sata," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)