Zambian presidential candidate for the opposition party United Party for National Development (UPND) Hakainde Hichilema gives a press conference at his residence, in Lusaka on August 11, 2021. - The UPND, the main rival to the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), is eager to tap into mounting disillusionment in the city's poorest neighbourhoods, where dissent has grown since the last 2016 poll. (Photo by Patrick Meinhardt / AFP)

By Mbangwa Xaba

The landslide victory by opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema over incumbent Edgar Lungu in Zambia’s presidential election has heralded a new era in Southern African politics.

Our once revered liberation-movement-turned-ruling-parties, led by struggle-heroes are facing increasing criticism and challenges over enduring poverty, unemployment and alleged corruption.

Many liberation movements in the region are venerable, faced with unprecedented protests and waning popular support they once enjoyed.
South Africa’s ANC is said to be faced by possibility of a coalition government. This after an unprecedented loss of support in the last local government election that saw it lose key metropolitan municipalities to the opposition including Joburg and Tshwane.

In Zambia, this is the third time that power has shifted peacefully from a ruling party to the opposition since the southern African country’s independence from Britain in 1964.

News24 reported how some in the opposition parties in South Africa were jubilant at the Zambian elections result. They say they see hope with the new generation of opposition leaders like Hakainde Hichilema’s victory.

This they say could strengthen opposition politics in the region.

“Suddenly, we feel, for the purposes of opposition, we have an ally in Zambia,” said Mmusi Maimane, leader of One South Africa.
“Not only is this a story of courage, this is his sixth time in trying, but he’s a genuinely good guy and often in politics, there’s sometimes an underlying theme that the good guys don’t always win,” Maimane told Media24.

Across Zambia, celebrations broke out in the streets as Hichilema’s supporters wearing the red and yellow of his United Party for National Development (UPND) danced and sang, while drivers honked their horns.

But celebrations could be short-lived: Zambia is in dire financial straits and it became the continent’s first pandemic-era sovereign default in November after failing to keep up with its international debt payments.

That was owing to an explosive mix of depressed commodity prices – which had pushed Zambia into recession well before the pandemic – and a brutal slowdown in economic activity caused by the pandemic itself.

Hichilema (59), a former CEO at an accounting firm before entering politics, now faces the task of trying to revive Zambia’s fortunes. The economy has been buoyed only slightly by more favourable copper prices – now hovering around decade highs, driven partly by the boom in electric cars. Last year, Zambia, Africa’s second biggest copper miner, produced a record output of the metal.

International Monetary Fund support is on hold until after the vote, as is a debt restructuring plan seen as an early test for a new global plan aimed at easing the burden of poor countries.

Hichilema was born on June 4 1962 in the southern district of Monze. After attending school locally, he was admitted to the University of Zambia on a government bursary where he studied and graduated in 1986 with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Economics and Business Administration. He later obtained an MBA degree in Finance and Business Strategy from the University of Birmingham, UK.

Since then, Hichilema, affectionately known as HH, has carved out an impressive track record in business, both locally and internationally. A large commercial famer, Hichilema is now the second biggest cattle rancher in Zambia with nearly 100,000 herds of cattle to his name on four ranches, and is one of the biggest suppliers of meat to the local Zambian market, as well as one of Zambia’s biggest exporters of hard-currency-earning beef products. He also holds substantial investments in Zambia’s tourism sector.

Following his university education Hichilema ascended to top positions in Zambia’s corporate world, landing such prestigious jobs as CEO of Coopers and Lybrand at the tender age of 32 years old, from 1994 to 1998, and later as CEO of Cooper’s successor, Grant Thornton, from 1998 to 2006. He was the biggest local shareholder in two foreign-owned companies; including Barclays Bank Zambia Plc. Hichilema is also a trained Business Negotiator, a qualified Change Management Practitioner and is a member of the Zambia Institute of Directors.

HH won the presidency of the UPND in 2006 following the death of its leader, Anderson Mazoka, his business mentor and close friend. Since then, ruling party politicians have, unsuccessfully, poured their energy into trying to keep him tied up in legal cases which he has refused to let stand in his way.

In the recent January 2015 president by-election Hichilema came second in the race to the candidate of the incumbent PF, falling short by just 27,000 votes (1%). He has run his campaigns on a strong economic platform, arguing that Zambia needs a leader who understands business and can turn around the economy in order to unlock developmental benefits in health, education and elsewhere.

He is passionate about delivering improvements in Zambia’s education system so that every young Zambian has that same opportunity he had to receive government support that can empower youths to launch a successful career in which they can earn a decent wage, provide for their family and help grow the Zambian economy.

Finally, Hichilema is not just a politician and a businessman, he is also a philanthropist, donating to community activities and projects such as clinics, schools, sinking boreholes and building dams to enhance agriculture activities. He is married to Mutinta and together they have three children.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *