Hichilema: It’s high time to fix Zambia after 5 years of failed leadership
As Zambia gets ready to vote in a tight contest this Thursday, presidential challenger and UPND candidate Hakainde Hichilema puts forward his case for why the country needs a new government.
This Thursday, Zambia will head back to the polls. We have a proud democratic tradition that rightly and often places us among the pantheon of democratic standard-bearers in the region. Indeed, peaceful transfers of power and respect for the rule of law have long characterised politics in my country. This rich history is what inspired me to first run for elected office in 2006 and why I stand today as a presidential candidate.
In recent years, however, the political environment in Zambia has deteriorated to the point where electoral violence – previously unheard of in the country – has become commonplace, particularly now in the lead up to the 11 August polls. This reality is a terrible by-product of the practices of the ruling government that I am currently standing against.
The last round of elections took place not too long ago in January 2015, following the death of former President Michael Sata of the now-ruling Patriotic Front (PF). I narrowly lost that election – by 27,000 votes to be exact – to former defence minster Edgar Lungu. That election was widely criticised by observers, highlighting a number of concerns that persist to this day, including questions about the validity of the electoral register and the fact that potentially thousands of foreign nationals are illegally registered to vote. Nevertheless, I accepted the official outcome of that election, preferring peace and stability to the potential unrest that would ensue if I launched an official challenge. Furthermore, I knew I would once again have my opportunity when August 2016 rolled around. Now that that time is upon us, I genuinely fear for the future of my country.
[See: Zambia gears up for unsettlingly close elections]
Over the past year and a half, Zambia’s economy has noticeably stumbled. Under President Lungu’s stewardship, our national growth rate has fallen from 7% to 3%. Inflation has tripled, up from 7% in 2015 and now topping off at a staggering 22%. Unsurprisingly, our national currency, the kwacha, has also taken a severe blow, down from K7 to K11 against the American dollar. This toxic confluence of factors has placed an undue strain on citizens across Zambia, as well as on local businesses and outside investors. We have also suffered rising food prices, daily power cuts and massive job losses, particularly in the Copperbelt region – the industrial heart of Zambia – producing an untenable socioeconomic situation.
[See: Can Zambia’s opposition unseat President Lungu in the 2016 elections?]
[See: Copper, poverty and tax dodging: At the heart of Zambia’s high stakes elections]
To be sure, Zambians across the country – regardless of political affiliation, region, gender, race or any other possible designation – should expect more and they deserve better. They deserve better from a political elite that has allowed runaway corruption to drive our economy into the ground. They deserve better from a president who has shied away from communicating meaningfully with the people during a time of economic turbulence, only giving two press conferences in the span of 18 months, which has undoubtedly increased feelings of uncertainty and a lack of confidence.
Zambians also deserve better from a governing class that is focused predominantly on improving their own standard of living, including awarding themselves hefty pay increases, at a time when job losses are high and the price of food skyrocketing. These same leaders rarely venture to the majority rural areas of our country to either listen or respond to citizens’ concerns. This is unacceptable.
The Patriotic Front and President Lungu recognise this reality as well. This is why they have engaged in underhanded tactics to manipulate the upcoming election in their favour, understanding full well that their popularity is not exactly hitting a high mark several weeks before we vote. Indeed, Zambia is now gaining some notoriety— not as a democratic standard-bearer, but rather as a country in which the ruling party seems intent to go to any length to unfairly tilt the playing field in its favour.
[See: Zambia’s 2016 elections: is a disputed outcome now inevitable?]
Aside from being labelled a “Satanist” by supporters of my opponent and the worrying rise of political violence, there has been a clampdown on the independent press, including the closure of our main independent newspaper and the prolonged persecution of its editor (a former PF supporter). Authorities have also routinely harassed journalists for reporting on sensitive political issues and for covering my campaign speeches and rallies — this has also included reported death threats against individual journalists.
I have also had campaign events deemed “unauthorised” at the last minute; meeting permits have either been denied or later revoked; and I have been refused travel to rural areas of the country by the Air Force. Taken together, these recurring instances amount to major violations of international law and customary norms, as well as the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) Guidelines and Principles Governing Democratic Elections.
[See: The president could be only the second most important thing Zambians vote on tomorrow]
Despite these mounting challenges, however, I remain confident that Zambia has a bright future and an untapped potential. In order to help secure that more prosperous outcome, I unequivocally condemn and stand against the acts of violence happening in our country. I call on my supporters in particular to remain nonviolent and ask that my opponent do the same. For at the end of the day, we may disagree – substantively and emphatically – on policy issues and what is best for our country, but we can both surely agree that violence and other means with which to tarnish the upcoming election are unacceptable.
I also encourage our international allies to remain engaged and to keep a watchful eye on events, not hesitating to speak out should injustices arise. Most importantly, I firmly believe that together we can help place Zambia back on the regional pedestal that our predecessors courageously fought for and rightly earned.
Hakainde Hichilema is president of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) and a candidate for president in Zambia. See hh-zambia.com for more information.
African Arguments has also invited President Edgar Lungu to lay out his case for why Zambians should vote for him this Thursday.
HH is not saying the truth when he says he accepted the outcome of the elections because he categorically stated that he was robbed and that he did not recognize the Presidency of EL. One can tell from the arrogance and sarcasm from HH every time he is talking about the President. HH has gone to the extent of declaring that he will not accept the results if he loses these elections and his cadres are chasing truck suspected to carry pre marked ballot papers which has not been proved. UPND cried about the printers of the ballot papers but they have been shamed as the process has been open and fair…Foreign voters were found to have been registered in his stronghold. The economic malaise is largely caused by the aftermath of privatization to which HH was a party when most people were declared redundant, assets undervalued while he walked to the bank smiling coming out as the richest Zambian…now he claims he can fix the very economy that was destroyed by HH and the MMD cohorts in the worst fraud Zambia has ever experienced. Tribalism is his own downfall as other regions are going to emulate the voting patterns of HH’s tribesmen…in that case he will not win because he practices Bantustan politics and has largely not been embraced national-wide.
When power gets into Hichilema’s head, he will act the same, encouraging violence, if he wins. Very common in Africa, where peoples’ vote is based on tribe or ethnic background.
It is not true that he accepted the loss because of Sata’s funeral, but the fact is he lost outright. Even this time he knows he is losing that is why he has resorted to violence with his carders. His lies are bare for all to see how does he claim to have not been allowed to fly to rural areas when in some instances he has been to the same twice. Be truthful . The closure of one of the tabloid is due to non payment of tax . He is trying to get to state house by all means. How does he tell people that he has won when voting has not taken place. He even threatened Armageddon if he lost, what kind of a leader is he?
HH is worse than a common thief-when entrusted to offload Zambia’s parastatals he pocketed the sale proceeds and later claimed to be a “rich man” overnight.
HH is nothing but an egocentric cheap thief and arrogant tribalist who thinks he knows everything but does not come out on how he is going to “fix” anything.
Thiefs and tribalists like HH running tribal parties like UPND should be kept .as far as possible from State House
The margin of difference was too narrow for the ‘incumbent’ to have claimed clear victor. The Acting President at the time, Guy Scott, actually congratulated HH because he was privy to actual vote count. The theft of votes happens at totaling centre; same thing happened in 2001 when EU actual certified count from all 5 thousand plus polling centre gave Mazoka a clear win but ended up losing by 33,000 by votes determined on a Friday after elections. By the way, the Constitutional Court has now ruled Edgar Lungu illegaly allowed ministers to stay in office when they should have stepped down after dissolution of parliament and that they should repay all allowances and salaries. Lungu is a lawyer but deliberately went against the Constitution just to manipulate elections. This one is too serious to escape.
Zambia needs to save face. There have been too many reports of violence by the ruling party. The corruption in the construction of roads shocks me. It almost happened here in Ghana but civil society was very strong for daylight robbery. This economist may have weaknesses as I read concerns above but has the guts to put the house in order. Only the corrupt seeking to continue manipulating resources would fear him.
It’s only in Africa where a president can within one and half years run down the economy (inflation from 7% to 22%, 48% currency depreciation,national debt from $3b to $7.6b while his personal wealth increased at a rate of $100,000 per day) and still unashamedly promise that he will develop the country if reelected. Ethnic politics is our biggest disservice to ourselves. All the same Lungu is the wrong person to govern Zambia, his last one year in office has not only brought the economy to its knees due to mismanagement and theft, there is an unprecedented breakdown of law and order. Not only has violence perpetrated by his supporters on the increase and unpunished, he too does not respect the law. Just today the constitutional court has ruled that his insistence to keep his ministers in office after parliament was dissolved was illegal. And he is a lawyer, go figure! Bottomline, Zambia needs new management. May God grant us to that opportunity this Thursday when we go to the polls