PICS | Hakainde Hichilema promises to renew Zambia's economy as he's sworn in as president

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  • Hakainde Hichilema was sworn in as Zambia’s seventh president in Lusaka.
  • His inaugural speech as head of state focused on the country’s economy.
  • Hichilema’s allies in the region’s opposition movements joined heads of state at the inauguration.

After six campaigns and years spent as a political outsider, Hakainde Hichilema was sworn in as Zambia’s president on Tuesday.

Wearing a mask and white gloves, Hichilema was sworn in as the country’s seventh president since independence. He took the oath of office at Heroes Stadium in the capital Lusaka, in front of an invitation-only audience. The crowd was limited due to Covid-19 regulations.

The 59-year-old, who won a landslide victory by about a million votes - unseating the incumbent Edgar Lungu - thanked Zambians for putting their "trust in a simple village boy".

READ | 'Cattle boy' millionaire: Meet Zambia's new president Hakainde Hichilema

Mutale Nalumango, Zambia’s second woman vice president, was sworn in alongside him. The first, Inonga Wina, served with Lungu.

As a brass band played the national anthem and various hymns, thousands watched from home.

Newly elected Zambia President Hakainde Hichilema
Newly elected Zambia President Hakainde Hichilema waves at the crowd after taking oath of office at the Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.
AFP Salim DAWOOD / AFP

In between the live broadcasts, Zambia’s state television ran advertisements by various companies – from ceramics to forestry — congratulating Hichilema and Nalumango and promising to work with the new administration to build the country.

In the stadium, one corner of the grandstand was awash in red, the official colours of Hichilema’s United Party for National Development.

ANALYSIS | Sixth time lucky as Zambian businessman becomes president, promising economic reform

President Cyril Ramaphosa was among the heads of state attending the ceremony, along with Democratic Republic of Congo Presient Felix Tshisekedi and Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Hichilema’s victory was seen as a boost for opposition movements. His regional political allies Mmusi Maimane and Zimbabwean opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, president of the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance, also attended the inauguration.

READ | Hichilema's win in Zambia inspires hope for southern Africa's opposition leaders, says Maimane

The crowd roared as Lungu handed over the symbolic instruments of power to his former rival.

Newly elected Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema
Newly elected Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema inspects the guard of honour during his inauguration at the Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.
AFP Salim DAWOOD / AFP

As Lungu conceded defeat last week, the two leaders met in a casual photo opportunity, with both men smiling. It was a far cry from the animosity that has characterised their relationship.

"We choose not to call it 'transfer of power' because power belongs to the people," Hichilema said in his inaugural speech.

"We must put aside our election-related and other differences and pull in on direction as a country," he added.

A focus on the economy

Much of Hichilema’s first address as president focused on the country’s economy, a consistent message he carried throughout his campaign.

Newly elected Zambia President Hakainde Hichilema
Hichilema talks to Tanzania President Samia Suluhu Hassan at his ceremony.
AFP Salim DAWOOD / AFP

“Going forward, you will see rationality, prudence and effectiveness from our side,” he said. it was perhaps a veiled dig at his predecessor, whose economic policies were criticised for over-spending on large but ultimately frustrating infrastructure projects.

READ | Zambia's opposition leader wins decisive victory in election overshadowed by Covid-19

Hichilema promised to restore "macro-economic stability", by bringing down national debt and restoring investor confidence. The businessman-turned-politician outlined what he described as an "ambitious economic and social transformation agenda" that would see the country reach middle-income status.

Drawing on his own experience as a businessman who became one of Zambia’s wealthiest men, he promised to diversify the economy and encourage entrepreneurship and innovation in a country that has been criticised for its over-reliance on natural resources. 

Hichilema’s mention of unity, good governance and foreign policy all returned to development and creating opportunities, ultimately foregrounding the economy. He also focused on the importance of a free press in a democratic country, after an election campaign that deepened the partisanship of Zambia’s media.

"We are not for big talking, we are for documents that are action-oriented, documents that are for moving forward."

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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