PRESIDENT HAKAINDE HICHILEMA’S VICTORY INSPIRE’S AFRICAN OPPOSITION LEADERS
Hakainde Sammy Hichilema has today been sworn in as the 7th republican president of Zambia. In a historic event held at the hero’s stadium where thousands gathered to witness this moment, crowds were seen arriving the previous night due to excitement and by 6oclock in the morning the stadium was full to capacity.
This election has seen many African opposition leaders being inspired by the victory President Hakainde has experienced, seeing as this is the 6th time he was standing and eventually won. This has brought a sense of hope to his counterparts in other African states that they too can overcome state repression and one day rise to power.
During a long political career that saw him fail in five previous bids to become president, Mr Hichilema was brutalized, tear-gassed and even detained for a traffic offence in 2017 that was deemed treasonous after his convoy failed to give way to the motorcade of outgoing President Edgar Lungu. But in an extraordinary reversal of his fortunes, the man once declared an enemy of the state will be sworn in as Zambia’s seventh president after defeating Mr Lungu in their latest election duel on 12 August.
“It’s massively inspirational,” said Tanzanian opposition leader Tundu Lissu who survived an assassination attempt in 2017 after being shot 16 times by people he believes were state agents.
“Zambians have shown us it can be done, no matter what they put us through, no matter the odds,” he added.
Mr Lissu lost last year’s election to the late President John Magufuli, which he alleges was rigged. He later fled the country as security officers planned to arrest him.
Some of his colleagues in the Chadema party, including chairman Freeman Mbowe, were briefly detained. In May, Mr Mbowe was charged with terrorism-related offences. His supporters say he is facing “political persecution” for campaigning for a new constitution.
According to Tanzanian opposition politician Zitto Kabwe, only a new constitution that guarantees the independence of the electoral commission will ensure the opposition has a fair chance in the next poll.
“In Zambia, the institutions of democracy seem to be [more] responsive to people’s will than in many parts of Africa.
“The fact that the army, the police, the intelligence services, the electoral commission would allow the will of the people to be superior is a very strong message sent to the African continent,” he added.
In Kenya, supporters of veteran political leader Raila Odinga have also been heartened by Mr Hichilema’s win, as the 76-year-old politician prepares to run for the presidency for the fifth time in 2022.
Mr Odinga said the Zambian election result “reminds fellow Africans elsewhere that nothing is impossible”.
Mr Odinga is due to attend the inauguration, along with opposition politicians from other African states, in a clear sign that Mr Hichilema does not intend to abandon them now that he is in office.
Observers also credit Mr Hichilema, 59, for broadening his appeal amongst the youth, a key constituency that nicknamed him Bally – slang for father – because of his focus on issues they could relate to.
“We are not masters of the people, we are their servants,” Mr Hichilema tweeted after he was declared the poll winner.
The post sparked a lot of reaction from across the continent.
However, some cautioned that they have previously seen other new leaders portrayed as liberators only for them to turn into tormentors once in power.
Zambians and others across Africa, will be watching closely.