An interview with Zambia’s opposition candidate Hakainde Hichilema on why Zambians should vote for him at a sixth time of asking. When Zambians go to the polls on 12 August, they’ll effectively have a choice between two men for president.
One is Edgar Lungu of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF).
In office since 2015, the 64-year-old incumbent has been accused of overseeing a dramatic authoritarian slide, an economic collapse, and high-level corruption.
The other is Hakainde Hichilema (widely known as “HH”) of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND).
The 59-year-old wealthy businessman has already run in – and lost – five presidential elections, losing by a razor thin margin in both 2016 and the presidential by-election in 2015.
African Arguments spoke to Hichilema over zoom about what’s at stake in Zambia’s elections and what will be different about 2021.
The interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Your Manifesto, like your rival’s, is full of nice-sounding promises. What would the number one priority of a Hichilema presidency be?
The defining drive for us is to reunite the country. Its current divisions are seen in many ways, including access to public sector jobs, which is extremely selective and discriminatory.
The second reason we’re seeking public office is to fundamentally reconstruct the country to revitalise the economy, which has been completely destroyed. This guy inherited an economy growing at 6%, but it’s probably less than 1% if not negative this year. We need investment, which will require an attractive and consistent environment. With the reconstruction of the economy, we can support the reconstruction of the social fabric of our country to ensure we can create jobs, business opportunities, support in the health sector, education, and social support to the weak, the sick children, the orphans, the disadvantaged communities.
A huge factor holding back the economy is Zambia estimated external debt of $12 billion. How would you deal with the debt crisis in concrete terms?
This government inherited a debt portfolio of under $4 billion in 2011. It now has close to $14 billion of external debt plus domestic debt, which is equally crippling. Resources that ought to go into investment and job creation, health and education, end up meeting debt service obligations. This government has already defaulted on a $42.5 million eurobond repayment in November 2020. It has been discussing with the IMF for a long, long time yet they have not concluded a programme. This puts this country in a very difficult situation with a high cost of living and inflation of 22.7%. Our currency is one of the worst performing currencies on the African continent. And it’s getting worse. Confidence levels are very low in our economy.
We want to focus on restructuring the debt. That starts with us putting a moratorium on borrowing. Secondly, we will stop access to credit facilities for consumption. Revenues will be focused on investment expenditure and productive sectors that will more inclined to create jobs. This is not possible currently because this government has no credibility. We will bring the credibility to the table and cut this government’s extravagancy.
You spoke of unity. In the last election, the vote was very regionally divided. President Lungu got a lot of votes in the north and east. Your support was concentrated in the south and west. How would you overcome these regional differences?
If there’s anything we’ve addressed effectively from the last elections, it’s this. We have put in place a party constitutional amendment that fosters national unity. At the UPND decision table, we have, by design, members from all ten provinces. Our leaders represent the face of the country, but without us compromising competence. The same is true of gender, young people and people with disabilities. The Vice President of our party comes from the northern region, while we come from the southern part of the country. We also brought in alliance partners, other political parties that are largely dominant in the northeast. The focus now is to really create opportunities for people to end hunger, provide jobs and health services, and tackle corruption. This is where the election will be won. We are comfortable that a free and fair elections would deliver a resounding victory for the union.
How do you rate your chances compared to the last election? You lost by just 10,000 votes in 2016, but since then, Lungu has had five years to tighten his grip and ensure he can manage the electoral process.
In a free, fair and credible election, he has no chance. People will be looking at how the economy has collapsed, the job losses, declining health services sector, how difficult it has become to survive and just put food on the table. Before, people weren’t sure whether he was capable or not. Now they know. He has failed. Our job is much easier.
However, he’s limited our freedoms. He sent a scare message to the police not to allow us to assemble because of COVID-19, but today he had a big rally in Lusaka. We want to let the regional and international community know of the deteriorating democratic conditions in our country.
So if the playing field is not level again, how will your electoral strategy differ from the last election when your polling agents weren’t able to provide the necessary proof of fraud?
The substance of our petition was never heard. We had the evidence. But going forwards now, the environment is already polluted. Many times, I’m not allowed to fly out of Lusaka yet there are no restrictions on others. If they were confident of winning, why would they place restrictions on the UPND? Coupled with that, we had a flawed voter registration that appears to favour my colleague in so-called PF strongholds. But the good news is there is nothing we can call a PF stronghold anymore. Zambians are singing the song of change across the country, even in the northeast corridor.
What would have to happen for you to boycott the election to avoid being seen to legitimise what you consider a flawed process?
Boycotting is never an answer even though levels of corruption are so high. For example, we bring in fertiliser at $1,100 per ton when the true cost is $450 per ton. What does all this difference constitute? Corruption. Part of this money goes to funding party cadres – let’s call them thugs – to brutalise political opponents and harass women in the markets.
You criticise party cadres, but many would say you cannot tackle this issue when a very senior figure in your own party is the well-known cadre mobiliser William Banda.
Well, look, if there’s a party that is good at reforming citizens, it’s ours. When citizens drift from other parties and join the UPND, within a short period of time, you can see their improved behaviour.
We are victims of violence. So many of our members have been killed at the hands of PF cadres. I’ve been detained 15 times. And none of those times have I been found guilty. We need to reform the criminal justice system so the presumption of innocence until proven guilty is restored. We will not allow citizens to be arrested before an investigation is done. When somebody is arrested, they will be taken to court within the legal 48 hours and they’ll be given bail conditions. This will decongest the criminal justice system and filthy prison cells. As a regular customer in those hotel apartments called police cells, I can tell you they have no ventilation or proper lighting. You are put in a very, very small space with 100-plus detainees. And the following morning you wake up and one or two of your colleagues are dead. I’m alive because God wanted me alive.
You are now running for the sixth presidential election, having led your party for 15 years. Some would see you as a brave and determined man. Others might see someone who, like may maligned presidents, simply refuses to hand over power and opportunity to the next generation.
I should really just be going into my second or third election except that, since I came into limelight, we’ve had two presidents die in office. But that being what it is, the constitutional provisions are very clear that you are restricted to go beyond two terms of public office and my colleague is pushing for a third term, which is unacceptable. What drives us is the suffering of the people. I don’t think anyone who feels affected by the welfare of other people will stay at home and enjoy themselves is nothing to enjoy. When you have poverty around you it’s really humiliating and dehumanising. That’s what drives us. We don’t count how many times we run. This election is not us against them, but the people of Zambia against the PF.
SOURCE: African Arguments
HH Azaluza chi kala ….ECL Alewelelapo.kikikiki
I agree with HH that Zambians want change but that change is not him. You can’t force change based on some old calculations or manufactured opinions. Your job is to seek a mandate to govern not to look for sympathy vote. You need to work for it.
Change but not for this guy. Let him hang
Yesterday I received some youths from the UPND who were distributing fliers door-to-door. When I asked them why I should vote for HH their response left me wondering if Zambia has any future leaders. They told me that I was suffering and can’t even afford a chicken which was at K100! How did they know that I was suffering? Although I’ve educated my children I don’t depend on them. I’m financially stable and still support others. Is that the UPND message to Zambians? When I told them “Alebwelelapo” mamama! They became vulgar to an extent of almost being violent. So which change are Zambians seeking? To uninstall ECL & install HH isn’t change. UPND & HH have nothing to offer.
HH ha dodged most questions.
Development in any country comes about through leadership change. A good example is the USA. Each president contributes something positive towards the country’s development. But let us allow ECL to continue his second term and thereafter, we can vote for someone else. Alebwelelapo pa mupando. He is the Chosen One for now.
If there’s a hardcore tribalist , hh is a prime example! He came on political scenes based on tribal mirrors . How is he going to unite the country..? He can’t denounce violence instead he is inciting his cadres to be more barbarism, how is he going to unite the country..? He is busy fueling undercover division in government institutions, knowingly based on ethnic politics, how is he going to unite the country..? His family is in limboing, they claim that he’s stone hearted, how is he going to unite the country.?
And hh shouldn’t claim that his political drive is suffering of Zambians. He is motivated by his sponsors the AM, AALN etc… who are interested in abusing Zambians and natural resources.
We don’t want 1990 saga that has caused multiple setbacks to the suffering of people.
Same rubbish. Look how he avoids the William Banda question?? He’s asked how his strategy would differ since his polling agents failed to provide evidence last time, ati we had evidence but it couldn’t be heard??? Uyu ni chimbwi no plan. Change?? Theliz no.
hichilema has no morals surely the companies were sold during privatization living hundreds of thousands in the cold, And if hichilema had morals he should have by now asked for forgiveness for the people of Zambia surely hichilema is a hypocritical liar now where do you expect jobs to come from if you and your friends sold parastatal companies! When you talk about the economy remember that it has a component of manufacturing. The question is how many products is Zambia exporting to the outside world! And if the nation can’t export more than it imports it’s a problem! As a consultant during privatization you hichilema should have advised the then government to sale 50 percentage shares all the none of unemployment and economy wouldn’t be there. Besides tell your company to pay BP…
WHATEVER HH IS HE CANNOT DO ANY WORSE THAN PF
EVEN GOD WOULD HAVE AN ISSUE TRYING TO SORT OUT THE MESS PF HAS CAUSED
SO CHANGE AT LEAST WILL BRING SOME HOPE AND HOPEFULLY REPAIRINGTHE ILLS OF THIS COUNTRY
PF AND LUNGU MUST FALL
Pensioners their money hichilema you are heartless.
Tell him to go and build his mother in law the house. How can you become a millionaire and fail to take care of your mother in law in village? She lives in a thatched house. Awe guys nangu kaso tefyo ifyo
@Ayatollah, firstly, do not abuse such a name for the sake of clout. That said, you cannot expect the UPND Youth to give you all the answers you seek, you are simply comforting your conscious for voting for a corrupt regime, from what you have written, I suspect that the PF are your direct benefactors. I can afford to educate my children and live a relatively luxurious life, however, it is no lie that the standard of living has diminished, it is no lie that the judiciary is compromised (see how Kambwili can nolonger be jailed), it is no lie that Zambia has overpaid for tenders under PF, fire trucks, roads, etc. Don’t be deluded, Lungu is not standing for a 3rd term because be loves Zambia, no one changes a constitution because they love their country. I will not give my vote to Lungu for…
As for me whoever will win I will accept. Of course rigged election results are totally unacceptable but I know some party is desperate to retain power at all costs due to the numerous crimes they have committed
Let the will of the people prevail not abracadabra.
This type of arrogance look whats happening to South Africa…Politicians must stop being arrogant….stop trying hard to cause violence…let Zambians vote dont say they want change…..and you lose elections you will start inciting violence
One sided journalism like Lusaka Times
@ Sweet Angus are you saying when we start eating chicken then we achieved change? What Ayatolla said very true and it has nothing to do with eating with PF. Yes PF has failed in so many areas but eating chicken and sausage is not the basis of change bane.
Zambian dictator is gone, Thanks HH, What a breath of fresh air. My words in August 2021
I always tell people to stop die hards or believing in Politcians,Prophets, Soccer teams etc …easily brainwashed when there’s cult following…just believe in yourself and take good care of your family and be kind to everyone…South Africa is on fire because of Politicians…..and also gullible people believing in Prophets so much….after all if Politicians win only their families benefit and their close friends….i don’t think there’s any blogger on Lusaka Times who will benefit wether Edward Chagwa Lungu or HH wins…..so to hell with all Politicians
Some of the comments above exhibit a mindset that typically tells you the reason Zambia is where it is. Reactionaries without a backbone. Content with the crumbs they pick up from ECL’s corrupt fuelled banqueting table. Oblivious to the many that have no jobs or have had their purchasing power severely eroded over the years and are subjected to grossly under funded social, health and educational services – not to mention the almost complete lack of a safety net for the most vulnerable. A country is not judged by the opulent wealth of a few, but by how it responds to the most vulnerable and those discarded from accessing opportunities that would make a meaningful difference to their lives
HH is the incoming President, love him or hate him
Zambians should give HH a 60 th Birthday Gift by voting him President of Zambia on August 12, in a UPND Alliance Govt. HH will make a Wonderful President who will make Zambians Proud. HH has the Capacity to stabilize and turnaround the Economy. HH will restore Constitutionalism, Rule of Law,Good Governance and respect for Human Rights. HH will get rid of PF Cadre Violence and thuggery in our Markets and in Govt. HH will make a fantastic President of Zambia. On August 12 Zambians have a golden opportunity to change their Govt and their lives.
Change is coming to Zambia the way it did in 1991
The standard of living has deteriorated drastically and anyone here disputing this fact is either delusional or a PF sycophant. If for you, it’s you and your family as the rest of Zambia can burn, then enjoy your looted wealth. Because even those that had/have money can’t ignore the massive downturn in our economy. Just look at the number of street kids in Lusaka, Kitwe and Ndola….People are going through living hell and we all know that because of misplaced priorities as well as rampant looting of government coffers, we now find ourselves in these hard times. Cadres are millionaires in USD while graduates are now paupers. Anyway, my vote is my weapon.
Its folly to heap all the blame on PF for the decline in the economy. MMD did not leave a strong enough economy to withstand the external shocks the country has endured. Reserves of US 3 billion and debt of US 4Billion despite the kwacha trading at less than 10 is nothing to withstand the effects of drought, fresh floods,army worms and now covid not withstanding corruption. We simply had a very fragile and small economy to talk about. So it’s only fair to judge PF performance in this context. If anything it could been worse. I will vote for ECL given the leadership growth he has earned presiding over the nation at a very difficult time. Alebwelelapo pamupando
HH never answered any question
Yes we need change but that change is NOT you sir…in your heart you know you are losing again…read the tea leaves
@2 and HH, CHANGE WITH WHO AND FOR WHAT? JUST FOR THE SAKE OF CHANGE? WHY DO NATIONS CHANGE GOVERNMENTS? THEY CHANGE BECAUSE THE SEATING GOVERNMENTS ARE NOT IMPLEMENTING THINGS THAT GUARANTEE FUTURE DEVELOPMENT AND INDUSTRIALISATION. HAS THE CURRENT GOVERNMENT DONE ANYTHING THAT GURANTEE FUTURE DEVELOPMENT? THE ANSWER IS YES. THE CURRENT GOVERNMENT HAS BUILT ROADS, BRIDGES CONNECTING TOWNS AND COUNTRIES, THEY HAVE INCREASED ELECTRICAL POWER TO THE POINT OF WIPING OUT LOADSHEDDING (Mind you South Africa still experiences loadshedding), they have built social infrastructure such as schools, hospitals, houses for service men and women, universities, airports to name but a few. ZAMBIA WILL BE CONNECTED INTERNATIONALLY IN A BIG WAY. SO KEEP YOUR CHANGE TO YOURSELF. WE DON’T NEED IT.
What are you going to do about the debt?
Bla bla bla bla……
That’s your answer. Blame blame blame….
That’s HH game planned for his unlikely 5-10 years.
Lungu sold cold storage board of zambia to forigners to remove all equipment……
He drunk all the money untill he was broke and went on to defraud a widow of her late husbands pension …….
Just tell them 2 of the 6 elections were stolen in clear day light. Your petition was not heard.
Mr President, just tell them 2 of the 6 elections were stolen in clear day light. Your petition was not heard.
HH and politics are like ni ba roomie. Ba monko.
They forget to ask who inspired him to join politics.
No change…We will never go back to privatization…We have learnt lessons the hard way..We have all heard from hichilema that he will come and give the mines back to foreigners because he doesn’t believe that Zambians can run the mines but hichilema is wicked, you don’t trust your people to run the mines but you want people to trust you run the nation…alaaa hichilema is like Judas Iscariot he can never be trusted. To Zambians let me warn you not to you your emotions but your head to vote. Say no to privatization phase 2.
PF has a better economic Plan on how to navigate the Zambian economy in its economic fiscal plans and must be voted back into power If the assets created were to be valued and real options in soft skills talents critical infrastructures were to be observed over the Economic and Planning outlook 2021 to 2030,with increased economic activities and productivity Zambia is better Positioned than before to grow its economy. The Budget deficits cold come down over the tears 2021 to 2030 with increased revenues from Areas of Investments in critical Infrastructures’ pathway to sustainable debt levels is something that is achievable over this Planning period Real GDP is…
projected to increase beyond its potential given the Investments made in areas of economic Zones .Unemployment with continued focus on growing the economy is also projected to reduce as the Zambia economy grows its sectors. These accelerated Investments from The Euros have therefore realized and achieved much progress for Zambia and the future is brighter than before if our Value chains translates into revenues and employments As the economy is expected to perform with transition from Investments to savings and working the economy, our deficit positions will reduce and the levels of debt and accumulations will be much slower and reduced given already the Zambian economic recovery plan as…
Change YES. BUT ARE YOU THE CHANGE WE WANT????????????????????????????????????????????????????
We should embrace investments of critical infrastructure nature sustainable so as we hope to grow the Zambia economic sectors to its potential and address the revenues to reduce the potential risks in elevated debt levels that could have potentially have been with poor infrastructure skill sets to support FDIs and sectorial growth This is the only way to address Core inflation to bring long-term risks in price rise in global commodities that are and potentially impacting our people.
So its not surprising that the focus for 2021 to 2030 however should be to address the economy to perform it and achieve growth and wealthy for the people having invested in critical…
HH tells African Arguments?????
Does a loving parent count how many times he tells his children that he loves them? Does a loving husband count hw many times he tells his wife “I love u”? Why should HH count how many times he has tried to get elected as president? It’s for the likes of Fred M’membe, a petty-minded politician with no temperament to do adversarial politics.
Not convincing arguments HH. Shame! Am not political. I dont care who is in power. I care about the welfare of Zambians. After being given a chance to make a point, you threw it to worst in cheap blame games. Which all cheap politicians do. I was expecting a real political and economical agenda, not empty words full of cheap paint. I am afraid that you will destroy vote in the same way. You just made me not vote for you. Solly!
Comments are closed.