Five Things to Know About Zambia’s President-Elect

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By Walcott Wubong

Zambian President Edgar Lungu accepted defeat after opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema scored an overwhelming electoral victory, leaving him with the task of rebuilding the country’s ailing economy. Hichilema had received 2,810,777 votes against Lungu’s 1,814,201 in all but one constituency, and the electoral commission crowned him president-elect. It was the third peaceful transfer of power to an opposition party in the country.

“I will comply with the constitutional provisions for a peaceful transition of power. I would therefore like to congratulate my brother, the president-elect, His Excellency Mr. Hakainde Hichilema, “Lungu, 64, said in a short televised address to the nation.

When the celebrations are over, Hichilema will have to work on reviving a sagging economy. After failing to meet its international debt obligations, Zambia became Africa’s first pandemic-era sovereign default in November 2020.

It is without a doubt what the instruction is to all of us (that you)… elect us to the office at a difficult time, “Hichilema said, hinting at the task ahead as he addressed supporters in the capital, Lusaka, after the win. “We will not let you down.”

The following are five facts about Zambia’s president-elect:

  • Hichilema, who was born in the Monze District of southern Zambia, has portrayed himself as a self-made man who walked to school barefoot as a youngster and received a government bursary to attend the University of Zambia. He went on to study business and finance at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.
  • He has previously worked for professional services firms Coopers and Lybrand (later PricewaterhouseCoopers) and Grant Thornton in Zambia as the head of their Zambian operations. His portfolio of businesses includes property management, cattle ranching and financial consultancy.
  • He first ran for president in 2006 and only narrowly lost to Lungu in contested elections in 2015 and 2016. He finally won Zambia’s top job on his sixth attempt.
  • In 2017, Hichilema was charged with treason and sentenced to four months in prison after reportedly refusing to make way for President Lungu’s convoy.
  • Hichilema is married with three children and is an active member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He owns one of the country’s largest cattle herds and has a farm in Zambia’s Southern Province.

Mr. Hichilema has described himself as an ordinary “cattle boy” who herded his family’s livestock in his youth before going on to become one of Zambia’s richest men and now president-elect.

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