The Zambia’s opposition candidate, Hakainde Hichilema, has been declared winner of the recent presidential election by the country’s electoral commission. He contested in five previous elections and lost. Hichilema, a businessman, polled 2,810,777 votes to beat the incumbent President, Edgar Lungu who had 1,814,201 in a spectacular landslide victory.
The vote tally translated to 57.9 per cent for Hichilema and 37.3 per cent for Lungu, thus ruling out a run-off election. The country’s electoral commission’s chairman, Esau Chulu, who announced the result in Lusaka, declared Hichilema the winner of the election and president-elect of Zambia.
Hichilema, 59, who has a degree in Economics and Business Administration from the University of Zambia, based his campaign promises on turning around the fortunes of his over 18 million compatriots. He ran on the ticket of United Party for National Development (UPND), while the outgoing President Lungu, 64, contested under the ruling Patriotic Front (PF).
With the successful conduct of the poll, Zambia has maintained its shining record as one of Africa’s most stable democracies where every transition of power has been peaceful since it adopted multi-party democracy in 1990.
International election observers who monitored the exercise have commended the transparent and peaceful conduct of the polls, which witnessed a high turnout of voters put at around 70.9 per cent.
We commend the authorities in Zambia for allowing the people make their choice in the election. The process and outcome of the poll are good developments for the country and the continent. The Zambian electoral commission must be lauded for conducting the poll, generally adjudged to be free and fair. It is hoped that the peaceful conduct of the Zambian poll will further deepen its democracy.
The defeat of the incumbent President by the opposition candidate is an indication that democracy has, indeed, come to stay in Zambian. Good enough, Lungu has accepted defeat and congratulated the winner. Therefore, we see in the Zambian election a vista of hope for democracy in Africa and advise other countries on the continent to follow the good example of Zambia. It is sad that democracy has been truncated in some African countries due to undemocratic tendencies of their leaders. However, Hichilema has started on a good note by giving assurancecthat his victory is for all Zambians. He should carry everybody along in rebuilding the country. Having made it after six attempts, he must work for the good and unity of the country as he has promised. We believe that his job is already cut out for him. He should factor the opposition in his government and treat the entire country as his constituency, including those who voted for him and those who did not. Now that election is over, it is time for governance. Let him free the country from human rights abuses, corruption, a failing economy and massive unemployment that is responsible for widespread dissatisfaction among the youths.
With Zambian unemployment rate estimated to have risen to 12.17 per cent in 2020 by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Hichilema has a lot to do in this regard. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic plunged the Zambia economy into a recession last year. He should expedite action in fixing the economy.
The country’s currency, the Kwacha, has also suffered high rates of inflation in recent years, forcing the Bank of Zambia to introduce high value denominations from 2003, including 20,000 and 50,000 kwacha bills to facilitate transactions. Some of the country’s national assets are also being managed by China, due to subsisting loans. These are challenges facing Hichilema and his team.
It is instructive that the new president has promised to rebuild investor confidence. He should ensure that he does not deviate from his campaign promises. This is the time to walk the talk. He should not toe the path of some discredited leaders in Africa, who promised so much during campaigns but delivered a little while in office.
We welcome the refreshing development in Zambia and urge the new leader to remain focused. The peaceful election of Hichilema is a celebration of democracy. We congratulate him and also felicitate with the Zambians for making their choice.
With the victory, Hichilema becomes Zambia’s seventh president. Zambia’s first president, the late Kenneth Kaunda, ruled the country from 1964-1991. Others are Frederick Chiluba, 1991-2002; Levy Mwanawasa, 2002-2008; Rupiah Banda, 2008-2011; Michael Sata, 2011-2014; Guy Scott, who acted as president until the 2015 elections that brought Lungu to power.