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Alba Iulia
Wednesday, January 12, 2022

HH’s fight against corrupt at risk of becoming a political witch hunt-Report

Headlines HH’s fight against corrupt at risk of becoming a political witch hunt-Report

The EU-backed anti-corruption campaign currently underway in Zambia is at risk of veering towards a political purge, according to a new report published this week, a development that may undermine international goodwill towards President Hakainde Hichilema and increase the business risk for foreign investors.

The election of Hichilema as president of Zambia in August was heralded in the political capitals of the world like no other African poll result in living memory. Hichilema, known as ‘HH’, came to power against the odds, backed by a groundswell of support from a youthful population tired of life under the regime of Edgar Lungu.

The EU’s Election Observation Mission (EOM) even acknowledged the efforts to stymie HH’s campaign and his United Party for National Development (UPND), noting “unequal campaign conditions, restrictions on freedoms of assembly and movement, and abuse of incumbency”.
Brussels, like Washington, London and Paris, welcomed HH’s election and rightly supported the mandate he had secured for his policy platform, which centred around a strong but fair anti-corruption campaign.

HH was hailed as the reforming force that could break decades of under-development and drive Zambia’s economic revival, with Ursula van der Leyen emphasising the EU’s intent to “collaborate to drive forward the proposed governance and economic reforms prioritised in your overall programme for the future development of Zambia”.

Now, 100 days after his election, a new report from risk consultancy Pangea-Risk has assessed how Hichilema is performing.

And, while praise for his efforts and intent are clear, the realities of the country’s situation appear to be putting the objectivity of the anti-corruption campaign under threat.

According to analysis of recent data, the report assesses that economic reforms are stalled and the government’s ability to drive meaningful change has been constrained by the conditions of a looming IMF programme.

Zambia’s heavily indebted economy has struggled in recent years, and in November 2020 it became the first country to default on its debts during the pandemic, leading to fears of a ‘debt tsunami’ that could wipe out economic growth across Africa.

This leaves HH with little room to manoeuvre in implementing his policy platform, and increases the risk of short term action that undermine his broader agenda.

At the same time, impatient and powerful political and business backers of the new government are increasing pressure to secure lucrative economic stakes in the mining and agricultural sectors, including fertiliser contracts, that risk uprooting the government’s pro-investor credentials.

One of these backers, Maurice Jangulo – whose wife is a minister in the UPND government – has recently secured a single-source private contract worth $50 million to supply fertiliser to UPND heartlands in Zambia’s fertile southern regions amidst a crackdown on the sector.

Awards like these revive rumours that Hichilema’s campaign is targeting political rivals while also rewarding some of his own political and business backers.

Crucially, such political infighting presents a distraction from the urgent need to ensure delivery of fertiliser to small-scale farmers, thereby presenting a risk of damaging the wider economy and ultimately Zambia’s ability to attract further foreign investment.

According to the report, Hichilema is now torn between pushing ahead with his reformist legacy or giving way to some of his loyalists’ intentions to resume looting of state assets.

The EU itself will feel the impact of this.

Only last week, the €26 million EU-funded Enterprise Zambia Challenge Fund (EZCF) awarded millions of euros of grants to ten companies operating in the agriculture sector.

Last month, a new €30 million initiative was launched by the EU, European Investment Bank (EIB) and Zambian governments to accelerate agricultural investment.

With EU taxpayer’s cash now committed to Zambian farming and agro-processing, any revival of corruption will be seen as a waste of taxes.

At the same time, EU-Zambia talks on enhancing development cooperation must now take into account the risk that established forces will hijack and exploit the anti-corruption campaign.

Robert Besseling, CEO of Pangea-Risk, said: “Expectations for the new Hichilema government remain high even now, three months after his election. However, the reality of the challenges facing Zambia has constrained his ability to act on key issues, including economic reform and his much-heralded anti-corruption drive.”

“Hichilema needs to ensure that his anti-graft efforts remain objective and do not take on the features of a political or tribal purge, otherwise he will lose the goodwill that his reforming message has earned from both domestic and international observers.”

This should be a warning sign to observers and investors from the EU and elsewhere that, without assistance, Hichilema may fall victim to the traditional, establishment forces that have held Zambia back for so long.

This will result in a return to graft, endemic in previous administrations, and mean that Zambia fails to benefit from the best opportunity it has had in years to reform.

Hichilema still retains a strong standing both internationally and domestically, with a clear mandate to clean up the Zambian economy. To enact the change he speaks of, and restore confidence at home and abroad, HH must not allow his anti-corruption campaign to fall victim to the very forces he is seeking to defeat.

16 COMMENTS

  1. WITCH HUNT ??
    ZAMBIA IS FULL OF SELF PROCLAIMED WITCHES
    SURELY EVERYONE HAS EXPERIENCED A THUD ON THE ROOF LATE AT NIGHT ??

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  2. Yes……….

    That might be seen as so to outsiders , but……..

    90% of the PF higharchy and former GRZ were from 2 regions ……..

    95% of those accused of corruption were from those same 2 regions………

    HEHH has no choice but to pursue those corruption scandals, otherwise the streets will turn on his GRZ…….

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  3. The EU don’t know the mentality of African politics. The guy in his mind may have good intentions, but the African spirit has different ideas. For a starter Mr Hakainde was expected to do away with DCs but not only did he Uturn on this but went on to appoint cadres to the office and not only do we have cadres as DCs but even permanent secretaries. Simple reason is that the African starts campaigns for the next election even before being sworn in. So he must reward those who propelled him. I don’t blame him, he’s only being African.

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  4. It may have been easy to win the election but it will be much harder to rule the nation. While the eradication of corruption is inevitable to build a better country, it is no secret that the growth of a strong economy is linked to constantly changing ruthless capitalist laws which see the rich citizens getting richer on the back of the poorer working class and peasantry. As a person whose wealth is directly built on these principles of neoliberal capitalism, it will be interesting to see how the president will counter this tidal wave.

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  5. HH is on the right track. No amount of distraction will derail the development plan plus locking up all the thieves. There is no witch hunt here. You steal you do time. Simple!

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  6. Just bring back what you stole. You will be given amnesty. But if not, you’re going to jail minus your tribe in whose name you’re now claiming you stole. “Don’t arrest me for corruption. Arresting me is akin to targeting my tribe”

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  7. Call it what you want, plunderers should be pursued relentlessly. When their visionless leader was openly encouraging his thieving cohorts, where was this *****ic organization ? You want to destroy Zambia the way you destroyed DRC by supporting thieving dictators & then loot our resources, We are going to pursue those who have stolen from us period.

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  8. Every Zambian wants any party that wins and form government to succeed it is only those opposing the ruling party who want their counterpart not to do well, Zambians want this President to do well the reason they went to vote that he uplifts their living standards.

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  9. I don’t get it, if certain group of people were in government and looted, should the investigative wings go for people who were not in government, who should the police ask questions? People bent on tribal talks to defend wrong doers are messing up the fight against corruptions.

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  10. It is already political and tribal. I am waiting for them to come for me because I want to see the lies they cook up. They are scared.

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  11. Let people call it whatever they want, be it political, tribal or witch hunt. The most important thing is that wrong doers pay for their crimes at the end of the day. Countries that have developed in this world strictly observe the rule of law, they enforce the laws. We the 2.8m voters will certainly change our minds in 2026 if the UPND does not make the PF criminals pay for their wrong deeds

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  12. Zambians can not see the light at the end of tunnel but darkness. Be sincere u upnd cadres. Let us wait wait and on 1st December 2022 but we need more industries opened other we are doomed and when already Zambia limping economically and it will be worse with IMF.

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  13. The European Consultants fail to understand the role of geo-ethnic polarization as a shield against accountability by African politicians. This report does not not start by analyzing the ethnic trap strategically set up by the previous regime. Of course the grandmaster of ethnic hegemony and exclusion knew that a time will come when this shield would protect him and his cronies from being held accountable for their actions.

  14. HH has no intention of stopping people speculating. We hv a president who understands hw the economy works and hw the rule of law fits into that. That’s why he’s accessible to the media.

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