By Zimbabwe Voice Reporter
ZAMBIA’S President-elect Hakainde Hichilema has reached out to President Mnangagwa as well as other regional leaders as he gets up to speed with regional geopolitics ahead of his inauguration as the country’s 7th President.
The 59-year-old United Party for National Development (UPND) leader beat outgoing President Edgar Chagwa Lungu by a million votes in the August 12 election and a peaceful transfer of power is already in motion following the two’s meeting in Lusaka Monday afternoon.
But Hichilema, in the spirit of good neighbourliness, has reached out to President Mnangagwa among other regional nations, said Presidential spokesperson George Charamba.
“As happens in the work-a-day world of politics, both the winning and losing candidate in Zambia’s recent plebiscite have reached out to Zimbabwe in the spirit of good neighbourliness and shared mutual interest,” said Charamba from Malawi where he accompanied President Mnangagwa for a SADC meeting.
“Apart from geographical contiguity and shared histories and cultures, Zambia is a key market for the Zimbabwean Economy while Zimbabwe is a key gateway for Zambian exports to South Africa and to the wider world through sea-gateways.”
Charamba said Zanu-PF has been a constant force in Zimbabwe since 1980 and all incoming Presidents of Zambia have maintained good relations with their Zimbabwean counterparts.
“Both countries are jointly working on Batoka Hydroelectric project which is set to be a game-changer in the region. Since Independence of Zimbabwe in 1980, towards which Independence Zambia played a key role, the ruling ZANU-PF party has seen power changing hands between four Presidents in Zambia.
“These are late President Chiluba, Mwanawasa and Sata, (Banda) and President Lungu. The change from former President Lungu to President-Elect Hichilima is the fifth such.”
Meanwhile, Charamba chided the MDC Alliance who anticipated Hichilema to act any differently towards President Mnangagwa staying State Presidency was a straight jacket and Hichilema might have had his last contact with Zimbabwean opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.
“The office has its own straitjacket! Zvaana Gladys Hlathwayo (sic) zvekuti heee tichapuhwa mari naHH muna 2023, zviroto kupera. This is probably their last contact with him ever.
“From today until his (Hichilema’s) next transition in political life, it’s a new reality defined by sitting heads of State and Government. Ndidzo politics dzacho mufunge henyu, hama vadiwa!”
Hichilema will be Zambia’s seventh president and is tasked with resuscitating the country’s economy, a major focus of his election campaign.
His presidential inauguration, however, will be held after seven days. The seven-day period is meant to allow any aggrieved contestants to file a presidential petition seeking Constitutional Court intervention on any aspect of the election.
According to analysts, the overwhelming turnout of voters, particularly the youth, was a strong indication that Hichilema was going to do well. Hichilema rode on an alliance of other political parties, with the 66-year-old Mutale Nalumango, a former deputy speaker of the Zambian parliament, as his running mate.
In a tweet, the newly-elected Zambian president said it was important to put the interest of the country first.
“We are one nation, one people, one Zambia. We must come together, united by a common love for our country and our people, so that we can begin moving Zambia forward,” he said.
Hichilema was born in June 1962 in a village in Monze district in the southern part of the country where he did his primary and secondary education. He later studied economics and business administration at the University of Zambia (UNZA) before pursuing an MBA in Finance and Business Strategy at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.
Hichilema became the head of the United Party for National Development in 2006 and has suffered a tortuous period in his political career as he has been arrested on several occasions. The most paramount arrest, however, happened on April 11, 2017, when he was arrested and charged with treason. He was accused of endangering Lungu’s life after his motorcade allegedly refused to give way to the one transporting the Zambian president.
He was released on August 16, 2017, from Mukobeko Maximum Prison where he was detained in Kabwe town in the central part of the country.
Married with three children, Hichilema has brought to an end the Patriotic Front’s 10-year rule and has vowed to bring change under his party’s slogan “Forward.”
Analysts believe that Hichilema’s victory was due to people’s dissatisfaction with the Patriotic Front’s governance, which was characterized by corruption, breakdown of the rule of law and economic mismanagement. – Zimbabwe Voice ■