from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – AUGUST 16 is a date that will forever be etched in the memory of Haikande Hichilema, not only because he has been declared the new president of Zambia.
On August 16 2017, he was released from prison where he spent eight months on charges of treason, emanating from his disputing the outcome of the elections held a year earlier.
That poll condemned him to his fifth defeat.
At the sixth time of trying, the businessman has finally won and has been declared the seventh president of the Southern African country.
Hichilema secured 59,38 percent of the vote.
It is the third time since independence from Britain in 1964 that power is shifting from a ruling party to the opposition in the copper-rich nation.
A crisis was feared when this past weekend, incumbent Edgar Lungu, disputed the conduct of the elections held last Thursday, amid deadly violence.
Lungu garnered 38,33 percent.
There were indications he would resist a takeover.
However, his Patriotic Front (PF), in power for ten years conceded defeat and was among the first to congratulate the 59-year-old and his United Party for National Development (UPND).
“The Patriotic Front Party would like to congratulate the President-elect, Mr Hakainde Hichilema on his deserved victory,” Edwin Lifwekelo, PF Deputy Media Director, said.
PF also congratulated Lungu for “running a peaceful general election and his immense contribution to our political and economic space.”
“You (Lungu) have run a good race. Politics is about contestation of ideas. It’s about self-service,” Lifwekelo said.
Critics accused Lungu, the former defence minister of becoming dictatorial.
The PF said defeat offered time for introspection and it still had a part to play as the largest opposition political party in Zambia.
“We urge our members to remain disciplined and united as we wait for the party’s guidance on the way forward,” Lifwekelo said.
Hichilema, a father of three children with wife Mutinta, was scheduled to address the nation at the time of going to press.
The address was to be beamed from his residence in New Kasama, in the capital Lusaka.
On Sunday, he held a closed door meeting with former president Rupiah Banda, at the latter’s residence in Lusaka.
“We discussed a wide range of issues bordering on the welfare of our people. We remain committed to ensuring a united and developed Zambia for all,” Hichilema said.
Celebrations broke out around the country as Hichilema secured an unassailable lead in a contest that featured 16 individuals.
There were reports of looting and vandalism as over-excited youth spilled to the streets.
Trevor Mwiinde, the UPND Deputy National Youth Chairperson, called on youths to celebrate the victory in a responsible manner.
“Looting and vandalising of property in the name of elections celebration is not part of the UPND national agenda for young people in Zambia,” he said.
“The PF has been voted out party by the Zambians due to unruly behavior of the party cadres and we should be different from them. UPND Alliance youths shouldn’t take the path of PF cadres who used lawlessness as a means to make ends meet.”
Ester Katongo, police spokesperson, confirmed reports of looting and vandalism across Lusaka by people claiming to be celebrating.
“Members of the public must be vigilant and report any suspected incidents of looting because robbers can take advantage of the situation and engage crime,” she said.
– CAJ News