Kudakwashe Mugari recently in LUSAKA, Zambia
Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema got down to serious business yesterday soon after taking his oath of office in Lusaka with a 30-minute diplomatic meeting with President Mnangagwa where they agreed to reactivate quickly the joint commissions between the two countries and implement a series of past practical agreements.
Yesterday, President Hichilema took office as the seventh Zambian President at the giant National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka with his Vice-President Mutale Halumango being sworn in by Acting Chief Justice Michael Musonda.
The 90 000-seater stadium was filled to the brim, with the overflow crowd following proceedings outside the main arena on giant screens in true spirit of One Zambia, One Nation.
President Mnangagwa was among the 10 heads of state and government who witnessed the ceremony, in a show of unity and togetherness.
Soon after the inauguration, President Hichilema followed President Mnangagwa to his hotel where they held a 30-minute closed-door bilateral meeting, focusing on trade and relations between the two countries that can be traced back over a century through the decolonisation process, the liberation struggle where Zambia used to provide training and sanctuary to nationalists, and the subsequent formation of SADC and building of close relations.
“We had a long meeting where we shared our relations and history. We agreed to resuscitate our joint commissions between our two countries. I am happy President Hichilema showed that he is very focused to make sure that we implement those issues for the benefit of our people,’’ President Mnangagwa said later.
In 2018, Zambia and Zimbabwe signed four bilateral agreements to enhance cooperation, cultural exchange and boost trade.
These included the establishment of a one-stop border post at Victoria Falls to enhance tourism and trade through efficient movement of goods and people within COMESA and SADC, an agreement on the management and preservation of Zimbabwe liberation war gravesites, a cultural exchange agreement, and an agreement on gender equity and equality and women empowerment.
The President also commended Zambians for demonstrating maturity in democracy.
“Today we have witnessed the inauguration of the seventh Executive President of Zambia but this is the third republic because they had some leaders who came from the same political parties.
“But now we see the transferring of power from one political party to another different party. It brings about a new approach in government and this lesson from Zambia is critically important to show the entire world that we embrace the democratic process of transferring power in SADC.’’
President Mnangagwa also criticised Western allies for interfering in the democratic processes of African countries.
“I can mention that as SADC region we are more civilised. For example, when President Biden was inaugurated this year in January, Donald Trump boycotted. But here we see Edgar Lungu accepting defeat and agreeing to the transfer of power and giving instruments of power to the incoming President. This shows how much democracy has matured in our region compared to Western countries which want to teach us the democracy that they don’t practise,” he said
In his inauguration speech, President Hichilema said his administration will give equal opportunity to all Zambians, and pledged to ensure all citizens enjoy their freedoms as guaranteed by the constitution.
“I am a simple village boy you have made the seventh President. This victory is for all Zambians, especially the youth who came out in great numbers to vote. We showed the whole world the resilience of our democracy,” President Hichilema said.
The new Zambian leader said his government will in the first five years focus on restoring macroeconomic stability, debt sustainability and ensure no Zambian goes to bed hungry.
“We have shown the whole world the resilience of democracy, the people have decided it was time for change and we can say change is here,” he said.
Leaders who spoke at the colourful event commended Zambians for the peaceful elections, saying the smooth transfer of power had demonstrated Africa’s ability to manage its affairs.
President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who is also the African Union (AU) Chairperson, and President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi, who is the current SADC Chairman, spoke on behalf of visiting heads of state and government and commended Zambians for the peaceful elections.
President Tshisekedi assured the new Zambian head of state of AU’s support and congratulated the Zambians for upholding democracy.
President Chakwera said the Zambian polls had demonstrated that democracy in Africa was maturing, noting that the country had distinguished itself as a beacon of constitutionalism.
“This is the triumph of the African spirit, the embodiment of the Africa we want and the Africa we know ourselves to be . . . This Zambian story is a positive story that Africa is no longer an
infant. Africa has shown the spirit of unity and maturity,” the Malawi President said.
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who represented the panel of eminent African elders, said Zambia had shown that Africa is now mature and that it is possible to have peaceful transition of power from one political party to another
Yesterday’s historical event was also attended by President Hage Geingob of Namibia, President Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique, President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa, President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana, President Samia Suluhu of Tanzania and President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya.
President Mnangagwa returned home last night and was welcomed at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport by Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga, service chiefs and senior Government officials.