Zambia’s political landscape is faced by allegations of President Hakainde Hichilema’s ties to foreign powers and potential state capture. In an op-ed piece published on January 13, 2023, former politician, lawyer, and Economic Front President Wynter M. Kabimba has expressed his concerns over the actions and associations of President Hichilema.
“From the time Hichilema assumed the leadership of the United Party for National Development (UPND) in the opposition, a number of us knew and realized that he was not to be his own man,” wrote Mr. Kabimba. He continued, “HH quickly fitted the adages that ‘‘a man is judged by the company he keeps’’ or ‘’show me your friends, I will tell you who you‘re’.’ This was indeed confirmed at his inauguration at the Heroes Stadium on 24th August, 2021.”
The two notable invited dignitaries during the transfer of power ceremony were the Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland and former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo. According to Mr. Kabimba, Scotland had previously served as a mediator during Hichilema’s release from prison in 2017, following his arrest on alleged treason charges. Obasanjo, on the other hand, is closely associated with the South African Oppenheimer family, the founder of Brenthurst Foundation.
“The UPND, while in opposition, maintained close links with the Brenthurst Foundation and one Greg Mills, who is reported to be operating from State House and also a close associate of the Oppenheimers,” wrote Mr. Kabimba. He notes that when stakeholders expressed apprehension about Hichilema’s puppetry by the Brenthurst matrix and the new popular emerging culture of state capture, Hichilema denied these accusations, saying “I am a puppet of the Zambian people.”
Mr. Kabimba also references past incidents in Zambian politics to highlight his concerns about the possibility of state capture and injustice. He mentions the incarceration of former President Kenneth Kaunda by President Chiluba in December 1998 and the treason trial of Edward Shamwana in the 1980s. He notes that while Kaunda and Nyerere were towering figures who had done more for the Commonwealth organization than Hichilema will ever do, Kaunda’s welfare did not seem to matter to the institution at the time when he was a victim of gross injustice. Shamwana, on the other hand, was trained lawyer from Gray’s Inn in London, who was well regarded locally and internationally and was sentenced to death by the High Court and his appeal was dismissed by the Supreme Court, he would remain in prison for 10 years until 1990, when Kaunda pardoned him as a gesture of goodwill under the church mediated national reconciliation process.
In conclusion, Mr. Kabimba calls on President Hichilema to undertake some deep reflection as to how he wants to be remembered after 2026 and urges the public to pay attention to Hichilema’s associates in the coming years. He stresses that the President should “show his friends in 2023 and the public will tell him who he is, regardless of the amount of his denials.”
These allegations have not been confirmed and President Hichilema has not publicly commented on them. The Commonwealth and the Brenthurst Foundation have not made any statements on the matter either. However, this op-ed piece is likely to fuel further debate and speculation about the President’s true allegiances and the potential for state capture in Zambia.