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Hakainde Hichilema: The Zambian ‘cattle boy’ who grew to become president




Hichilema has contested and misplaced each election held in Zambia since 2006

It was a case of sixth time fortunate for Hakainde Hichilema, who has lastly turn into president of Zambia after 5 unsuccessful makes an attempt.

Mr Hichilema defeated his essential rival, the outgoing President Edgar Lungu, by greater than one million votes.

However who’s the brand new president? And why has he succeeded after years of failure?

Short presentational grey line

Quick presentational gray line

Mr Hichilema, 59, has described himself as an peculiar “cattle boy”, who herded his household’s livestock in his youth earlier than happening to turn into one in every of Zambia’s richest males.

The president-elect and chief of the United Occasion for Nationwide Improvement (UPND) is extensively known as HH. He was born into humble beginnings earlier than managing to get a scholarship to the College of Zambia, and later graduated with an MBA diploma from the College of Birmingham within the UK.

He went on to make a fortune in finance, property, ranching, healthcare and tourism.

He has used each facets of his background to attraction to voters.

He instructed voters that they wanted a profitable businessman to grasp get the financial system shifting within the copper-rich nation, the place there may be excessive unemployment. He additionally used his agricultural roots to attraction to the nation’s farmers, saying he may flip Zambia right into a meals basket for the area.

Nevertheless it was Mr Hichilema’s potential to attach with youthful voters that was maybe the largest think about his success. Greater than half of the seven million registered voters in Zambia are below the age of 35. Round one in 5 of them are unemployed.

The governing Patriotic Entrance (PF) swept to energy in 2011 on the promise of “much less taxes, more cash in folks’s pockets and extra jobs”. However this didn’t materialise for a lot of younger folks and so they turned out of their thousands and thousands for Mr Hichilema.

One of many methods he linked with younger folks was by means of social media. This was not the primary election that Mr Hichilema tried to make use of the likes of Fb and Twitter to attach with voters, however he has just lately upped his game.

He has additionally been keen to play soiled.

Final yr he launched a video entitled “The story of two professionals…”, which offered Mr Hichilema as a shrewd and accountable businessman, and Mr Lungu as somebody who spent all his cash in bars and nightclubs. “Which of those two is smarter?” the video requested.

Mr Hichilema would typically touch upon social media developments away from politics, notably soccer – a sure-fire strategy to join with voters. He would typically playfully taunt followers of Manchester United and Arsenal if their group misplaced.

He additionally congratulated Zambian gamers who landed massive cash strikes to Europe, together with Patson Daka, who just lately joined Leicester Metropolis, and Vogue Sakala, who signed for Scottish champions Rangers. He would even touch upon their pre-season pleasant games, seemingly displaying a real curiosity of their careers. Mr Lungu tried comparable techniques, however many felt it got here throughout as compelled.

Mr Hichilema would typically use slang on social media, together with the time period “bally”, an off-the-cuff means of addressing somebody as your father. Hashtags like #BallyWillFixIt was utilized in an effort to talk the language of individuals within the markets and bars, not simply the enterprise elites.

It appeared to work.

Hundreds of Mr Hichilema’s supporters flocked onto the streets of Lusaka after his victory, chanting “let’s go Bally”.

Mr Hichilema has proven resilience in his political profession. Alongside together with his 5 electoral losses, he typically reminds folks that he has been arrested 15 occasions since moving into politics.

In 2016, he was charged with treason for allegedly failing to present strategy to the presidential motorcade. He spent 4 months in a maximum-security jail earlier than the fees have been dropped.

In his acceptance speech, President-elect Hichilema prolonged an olive department to his predecessor.

“Don’t fret, you may be OK, you will not face retribution or get teargassed,” mentioned Mr Hichilema, who was typically attacked in what he mentioned have been makes an attempt to silence and intimidate him as an opposition chief.

After lastly getting the highest job, Mr Hichilema will little question be celebrating. However the brand new president-elect might want to get to work quick in a rustic dealing with many issues.

Together with excessive unemployment, the price of residing has additionally elevated quickly.

For the primary time since 1998, Zambia plunged right into a recession final yr because the Covid-19 pandemic unfold throughout the globe.

As for the cash the nation owes to international lenders, it’s estimated to be greater than $12bn (£8.6bn).

Because of this the federal government finally ends up spending not less than 30% of its income on curiosity funds, in response to credit score scores agency S&P International.

Final yr, Zambia missed an curiosity reimbursement, making it the primary African nation to default on a mortgage throughout the pandemic. It is usually dealing with difficulties repaying different loans.

Mr Hichilema’s wave of recognition will subside if he can’t begin fixing a few of these issues, and fast.


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