By Batuke Imenda, UPND Secretary General
President Hakainde Hichilema has the capacity to transform Zambia into the league of third-world economic giants such as the United Arab Emirates (Dubai), Malaysia and Singapore.
His democratic and human rights record resonates well with the late Nelson Mandela’s traits. His democratic vision is not inward looking but has a Pan-African characteristic, equally perceiving the world as a global village.
The UPND, just as the majority Zambians, are excited that with slightly more than a year in office, Africans have recognized that President Hichilema is one of the African leaders reflecting a new leadership paradigm.
We further take note that President Hichilema’s election by Africa as African Political Leader of the Year, explicitly recognizes his immense contribution to deepening democracy and democratic values on the continent. Democracy is the UPND DNA.
Having inherited a huge public debt of US$26.2 billion and an economy growing at -2.8 percent, President Hichilema spent the first days in office personally engaging this global village to help Zambia attain a sustainable debt restructuring framework. What followed, and is still in process, is that the outcome of this presidential lobbying has unlocked the critical resources to actualize the UPND’s socio-economic program anchored on Economic growth and job creation and Human and social development, among other policy pillars. The milestones are there for all to see.
It is this value-laden political approach which has seen the restoration of the rule of law, rebuilding and reuniting of Zambia barely a year in office. President Hichilema, like Mandela, was arrested and detained 15 times by his predecessor with the major one being 127 days spent in a maximum security prison on trampled up treason charges. He instead chose the path of political pacification as opposed to political vindictiveness.
Indeed, as has been correctly observed by the scores of our African brothers and sisters, President Hichilema is one of the new African leaders who are Changemakers. He sees progress where others saw only retrogression. To President Hichilema problems are opportunities and not drawbacks.
Other than the political milestones scored so far, President Hichilema has been able to demonstrate a strong resolve to safeguard public funds so that these resources go to the needy areas of our country. This has been illustrated by the manner in which the UPND administration has carried out the decentralisation agenda and the devolution of development powers to the grassroots. Suddenly, resources are trickling to people whose access to such empowerment in the past has been near negligible.
This has been coupled with consistent, timely and appropriate disbursement of the respective budgetary allocations like those towards CDF, support to free public education, and payments to the small-scale farmers.
President Hichilema has not only restored the pride of Zambians but he has demonstrably brought about a new sustainable political genre to the African continent. Africa, not only Zambia, has a lot to benefit from this selfless, and focused leadership exhibited by President Hichilema.