Zambia: Hichilema invites regional opposition leaders to inauguration

Hakainde Hichilema, Zambia’s next president, has defied precedent by inviting notable opposition leaders from the area to his inauguration on Tuesday. 

Mr. Hichilema, who defeated incumbent President Edgar Lungu in the August 12 elections by a million votes, is receiving opposition leaders from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana, and Tanzania, among others. 

His United Party for National Development (UPND) claimed that inviting both incumbent and opposition leaders demonstrated that Zambia’s new government would be different.

The UPND’s spokesperson, Joseph Kalimbwe, stated that they cannot stop associating with opposition groups in Zimbabwe, such as the MDC Alliance, because they backed their “struggle.”

“By inviting incumbent presidents and main opposition leaders from Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Botswana and other African countries, the UPND is sending a very strong message not just in Zambia but across Africa ‘we must do away with the politics of division based on opposing views’,” Mr Kalimbwe said on Twitter.

He added: “My support for the struggles of friends and comrades across our continent (Zimbabwe, Namibia, Tanzania- Africa) is unwavering – it will not stop.

“They chose the hard path of supporting our UPND struggles when others refused to associate with us in the opposition.”

Mr. Hichilema was a member of a southern African coalition of opposition parties led by Mmusi Maimane of South Africa, whose stated goal is to alter the region’s politics and combat autocrats. 

The ruling party in Zimbabwe is concerned about the new Zambian leader’s tight links with Mr Chamisa, a fierce adversary of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

President Mnangagwa last week said “if anyone dreams of what happened in Zambia crossing over here, they must wake up and brew beer, ancestral spirits have deserted you.”

Mr Chamisa, who barely lost to Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in the 2018 elections, called Mr Hichilema’s victory “inspiring.”

“It started in Malawi and swept into Zambia and now we can smell the sweet scent here in Zimbabwe,” he said. “It is coming.”

Last week, President Mnangagwa claimed credit for convincing President Lungu to concede defeat for the sake of peace in Zambia and the region.

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