BY MOSES MATENGA/LORRAINE MUROMO
THE victory by Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND) has rekindled tension between President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s Zanu PF and the Nelson Chamisa-led MDC Alliance with both parties claiming that they have cordial relations with him.
Hichilema, viewed in Zimbabwe as a Chamisa ally, emerged victorious in last week’s polls, defeating incumbent Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front.
MDC Alliance officials took to social media to flaunt their close links with the new Zambian leader.
Party secretary-general Chalton Hwende said Mnangagwa’s administration was panicking following Hichilema’s victory, describing the UPND as a “sister party.”
“The regime in Harare has been shaken by the victory of our sister party in Zambia. After the defeat of Edgar Lungu, Mnangagwa knows he is the next to fall,” Hwende said.
MDC Alliance international relations secretary Gladys Hlatshwayo also posted pictures with Hichilema and senior officials from his party in what observers said was an indication of their closeness to the Zambian President-elect and his team.
The victorious UPND party’s spokesperson Joseph Kalimbwe took to Twitter to express solidarity with the MDC Alliance and emphasise unity between the two parties while attacking Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu PF party.
“We must now unite a divided country. I see some Zanu PF supporters attacking me for showing support to the MDC Alliance. I will support people who supported us in our struggles. Compromised ruling party stooges will never threaten me,” he said.
He said he was hoping to see the MDC Alliance leadership at the inauguration ceremony in Lusaka next week.
Mnangagwa, who is also expected to attend Hichilema’s inauguration yesterday pledged to work closely with him.
“As you assume your term of office, I wish to assure you of my availability to work closely with you to solidify and deepen the cordial relations that exist between our two sister Republics for the mutual benefit of our two peoples,” Mnangagwa said.
He added that he was ready to work with the Zambian President-elect at regional, continental and international levels to advance ideals of development, peace and stability.
His spokesperson George Charamba, who recently described Hichilema as a sellout for posing for a picture with Chamisa, said the former opposition leader was now president and no longer in the league of opposition politicians like the MDC Alliance leader.
“The office has its own straitjacket. It is daydreaming for people like Hlatshwayo to think they will be sponsored by Hichilema in 2023,” Charamba said.
“This is probably their last contact with him ever. From today until his next transition in political life, it’s a new reality defined by sitting heads of State and government.”
“Real politics, as happens in the work-a-day world of politics, both the winning and losing candidates in Zambia’s recent plebiscite have reached out to Zimbabwe in the spirit of good neighbourliness and shared mutual interest.”
On Sunday, Chamisa said the victory of Zambia’s opposition was significant for Zimbabwe.
He said Zimbabwe’s 2023 elections belonged to his party, which he said was inspired by Hichilema.
Information secretary Ndavaningi Mangwana, however, dismissed Chamisa as a dreamer.
“In the folklore of matrimonial unions, there is always that bridesmaid who is never destined to marry. She will be part of a number of bridal crews but for her, the big day will never come. After each wedding, the newly-weds make new friends and stop communicating with certain singles,” Mangwana tweeted.
MDC Alliance deputy spokesperson Clifford Hlatywayo said: “What we are seeing in southern Africa is unavoidable, there is a wave of change and like the people of Malawi and Zambia; we need change and the upholding of the rule of law. What they are saying is a repetition of the Rhodesian mentality where Ian Smith’s regime pledged that no native will rule in a thousand years.”
Addressing a Twitter Space discussion on Africa and democracy spearheaded by a South African Mmusi Maimane, Chamisa urged the people to vote in their numbers so as to usher in democracy and constitutionalism.
“Go and register to vote, that is your only way out of this mess. The oppressor thrives on voter apathy. If you do not vote, you would have voted for the status quo,” he said.