By Nancy Samuriwo, HourlyHits Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S main opposition leader Nelson Chamisa is among the regional opposition leaders who have already received invitations to attend Hichilema Hakainde’s inauguration as Zambia’s President, even though the final results of the Zambian elections have yet to be announced.
Hichilema, who last week tried his chances for the Presidency for the sixth time, has commanded an unassailable lead with over 1 million votes in his favour, leaving incumbent President Edgar Lungu trailing by just over half that. Almost 40 percent of the 156 constituencies have so far had their results officially confirmed.
People around the Zimbabwean opposition leader say Chamisa, together with Mmusi Maimane of South Africa, have already been reached for their attendance to the inauguration expected this coming weekend, subject to Hakainde being officially confirmed President.
“We see the incoming President of Zambia Hakainde Hichilema with the MDCA Foreign Affairs Secretary Gladys Hlatywayo three days ago,” wrote journalist Hopewell Chin’ono on Sunday evening.
“This is the politics of inclusion that the region needs. Nelson Chamisa will be at the inauguration, those who don’t want to be there because opposition leaders have been invited can stay at home,” Chin’ono added, apparently in reference to Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
However, a former Government of Zimbabwe employee said it was unlikely that Hakainde was already lining up invitations for his inauguration as yet.
“Look, Mr. Hakainde is a seasoned politician who deeply understands regional geopolitics and won’t really handle matters that way,” said the source who recently retired from the Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Information division in the Zimbabwe’s Embassy to Lusaka headed by Ambassador Charity Charamba.
“Mr. Hakainde will just be peers with other regional leaders who include President Mnangagwa, and he won’t invite the country’s opposition politician ahead of the sitting Head of State.
“It’s not like he is Zambia’s first opposition leader to become President. Zambia has changed Presidents almost seven times since the early 1990s and all of them had regular State visits with their Zimbabwean counterparts. So let’s not dramatize issues yet.”
The official added that Hakainde was yet to even appointed his key Government people and there was no way he would have sent out invitations so early.
“Besides, unlike the MDC Alliance which runs its affairs out of a little office, Mr. Hakainde has whole structures in place and is yet to appoint relevant Government office holders who will handle the so-called invitations.
“If you notice, Mr. Hakainde has been mature even on Twitter, urging his supporters against early celebration, calling for patience and respect of electoral institutions and unity. That is not the kind of a leader that would make decisions the way you allege he has done.”
Early yesterday, MDC Alliance secretary for international relations, Gladys Hlatywayo, issued a statement praising Hakainde Hichilema and his incoming Vice President Nalumango Mutale.
Meanwhile, Hichilema this Sunday evening held a meeting with former Zambian President Rupiah Banda.
Speaking after the meeting, Hakainde said: “We have concluded our meeting with former President, H.E. Rupiah Banda, at his residence in Lusaka. We discussed a wide range of issues bordering on the welfare of our people. We remain committed to ensuring a united and prosperous Zambia for all.”
Hichilema, who describes himself as an ordinary “cattle boy,” is a wealthy businessman who is running for the Zambian presidency for the sixth time.
Hichilema has contested and lost every election held in Zambia since 2006, buoyed each time by an increased share of the vote.
His United Party for National Development (UPND) claimed the 2016 election was stolen from their candidate by Lungu, to who he lost by under 100 000 votes.
Chanting his campaign slogan “faka pressure” – meaning “put pressure” for change – the 59-year-old opposition leader has this time around capitalised on widespread dissatisfaction with Lungu’s running of the economy.
He was born to a poor family in the southern district of Monze, but says his “grit and determination” at school won him a priceless scholarship to the University of Zambia. He graduated with a degree in economics and business administration.
Hakainde then took an MBA degree at Britain’s University of Birmingham.
At the age of 26, he was CEO of the Zambian branch of the Coopers and Lybrand global accountancy firm.
Starting in real estate, he worked his way up to become one of the country’s wealthiest men, with business interests spanning finance, ranching, property, healthcare and tourism.
Hakainde has sat on the boards of several large Zambian corporations.
Critics view him as a political outsider, an economic jargon-touting corporate leader who was catapulted into politics following the death of former UPND leader Anderson Mazoka in 2006.
But in recent years “he has tried to blend with the ordinary (people) much more, swapping tailored business suits with casual fatigues or jeans, spinning messages which fly with the ordinary people,” according to analyst O’Brien Kaaba.
He “represents the future of Zambia,” according to Mmusi Maimane, a former opposition leader in South Africa and a strong Hichilema supporter.
“Despite the challenges in his nation and threats to his life, he has fought an incredible effort for democracy, freedom and change in his nation,” Maimane told AFP.
A Christian from the Tonga ethnic group, he is married and has three children. – Additional content by News24 □