ON HIS ascendance to the office of President after a landslide victory in the August 12,2021 polls, Hakainde Hichilema promised to fulfil the party’s vision as set by its founder Anderson Mazoka when he formed the United Party for National Development in 1998.
President Hichilema promised “A Zambia which is united prosperous and equitable’’. A Zambia that guarantees basic needs for all its citizens. A Zambia in which the fundamental human rights and property of its citizens are protected.”
He promised a “new dawn”.
President Hichilema then told a packed stadium of jubilating citizens: “Today, we begin our journey towards realising this dream.” A dream of re-uniting and re-building our mother Zambia.
It is now nearly nine months into that journey, which had six main targets: to achieve national unity, accountability and inclusion; to strengthen governance; economic transformation and job creation, as well as economic recovery and stabilisation.
The other targets were to institute public administration reforms, and to make Zambia a player in global affairs.
For a country that was tearing at the seams because of tribal talk, regionalism and political violence, national unity was paramount and it was one of the first successes Mr Hichilema scored, first by stopping his own supporters from taking over the running of markets and bus stations, which were breeding grounds for political violence.
Following his strong stance on violence, which he has repeated many times since becoming President, political violence has, to a large extent, been curbed, and citizens are freer to exercise their freedoms regardless of the political party they belong to.
It was the first sign of regime change, and a huge departure from the old system where police, to a large extent, abused the Public Order Act to stifle dissenting voices, usually resulting in police brutality.
One of the freshest incidents of that abuse is the killing of public prosecutor Nsama Nsama during peaceful protests by UPND supporters in Lusaka.
And now Government, through Cabinet, has approved the review of the Public Order Act, promising to amend it. If the Public Order Act is repealed or amended, Mr Hichilema will have done something that his predecessors failed to do despite public outcry.
There has also been a change regarding media freedoms.
In its latest quarterly report, Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia noted a marked improvement in the country’s media landscape, with far less incidents meant to suppress the media recorded.
President Hichilema has also shown willingness to be more engaging with journalists, promising to date them quarterly to answer their questions concerning the governance of the country. For instance, the President spent more than half a day interacting with journalists to mark World Press Freedom Day, something unprecedented in the history of media engagements by a head of State.
He has positioned himself as a leader with zero-tolerance for corruption and also a champion of good governance.
Although there is yet to be a major conviction of those suspected to have stolen public resources, Mr Hichilema has been unrelenting in his quest to end corruption and recover what was stolen.
In October last year, security agencies seized K65 million and US$57,000 from Faith Musonda. In addition, more than 400 properties, suspected to be proceeds of crime, have been seized. These are undergoing legal processes before they could be formally handed over to the people of Zambia.
That money that was recovered from Faith Musonda has since been channelled to support 2,200 university students from underprivileged backgrounds across the country.
Government has also set up a fast-track court to speed up the prosecution of cases involving corruption.
At the start of Mr Hichilema’s tenure, the country’s economy was teetering on the brink of collapse, with a US$26.9 billion debt that had become unsustainable.
Zambia’s economic growth was in the negative and the government then was struggling to clinch a bail-out deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), while the cost of living had reached uncomfortable levels for many citizens.
In January 2021, the cost of living had skyrocketed to a new all-time high of K8,400 per month for a family of five, mainly triggered by high inflation, as reported by the Catholic think tank Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR).
The country had also become unattractive to new investors because of eroded investor confidence and poor rating by credit rating agencies.
In September 2020, the credit rating agency Fitch had downgraded Zambia to nearly junk status due to its mountain of debt.
The outlook could not be dimmer. Someone had to turn the ship around.
Although negotiations over Zambia’s debt servicing are still in progress, there is now hope an IMF deal will be reached around mid-year.
Last November, the country reached a Staff Level Agreement with the IMF, a major leap forward in the negotiations.
And most recently, China, which Zambia owes US$6 billion, has also joined efforts to restructure the debt, giving the country and its citizens more room to breathe.
The economic outlook has since changed, and showing signs of recovery, even in the midst of another impending global crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine war.
The annual inflation rate has declined to 11.5 percent from 23 percent last year, while the exchange rate has stabilised, and in recent days has been registering marginal improvements.
On Monday, JCTR recorded a marginal reduction in the cost of living, which has been a source of worry for many citizens.
President Hichilema has not been shy to admit that the current state of the Zambian economy is hurting many citizens.
“I feel your pain,” he said at a recent press conference, commenting on the high cost of living in the country.
But he has also been assuring about the country’s future, and what his government plans to do to revive its economy.
There are now signs that the country could be headed for economic recovery.
The investment climate has improved, with investors now making decisions to invest huge amounts in Zambia.
Last week, for instance, First Quantum Minerals staked US$1.35 billion for Kansanshi Mine expansion, and opening of Kalumbila nickel mine.
It is the biggest single investment in a decade.
But there are also home-grown initiatives meant to spur economic growth.
One such initiatives that was recently laid on the table as a roadmap to economic recovery is the Public-Private Dialogue Forum, which will act as a platform for Government to work with the private sector to identify and remove bottlenecks to Zambia’s economic growth.
President Hichilema has also signed two key bilateral agreements with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Angola.
The agreement with the DRC is meant to create a joint value chain for the now hyped electrical vehicle sector and clean energy sectors in both Zambia and DRC.
The agreement with Angola is meant to promote trade between the two neighbouring countries.
Trade agreements have also been signed with Rwanda.
The increase in CDF from K1.6 million per constituency to K25.7 million is a major milestone meant to decentralise the operations of Government by taking financial resources to the people.
The move is also expected to spur economic development by encouraging small and medium-scale entrepreneurs to access cheaper capital through cooperatives.
The funds are being released quarterly, with guidelines issued on how citizens can access and benefit, but there is now also oversight from the Anti-Corruption Commission to ensure that there is no corruption in the process to access the funds, or theft by those administering the funds.
That Mr Hichilema has stamped his foot on the global stage is without doubt, projecting himself as a pan-Africanist, whose interest is to unite the continent around trade and promoting peace.
His most recent trip was to South Africa, where he delivered a keynote speech at the mining indaba in Cape Town, getting a standing ovation for what some described as a “breath of fresh air”.
Mr Hichilema has also been keen to forge new partnerships with progressive countries on the continent, such as Rwanda and Botswana, and has often referred to himself as the country’s number one salesman.
But, unlike his predecessor, who usually travelled abroad with huge delegations, Mr Hichilema is a “light” traveller, only carrying a handful of staff. He is said to have cut down his delegations by up to 90 percent, resulting in serious savings for the Treasury.
Without doubt, one of the most sweeping policies of the new dawn government has been the implementation of free education from Grade One to 12 – a dream come true for many poor and low-income households that were failing to take their children to school.
Government has also paid off 128,000 pensioners who had been waiting for their money, some for as long as 10 years.
The new Government has also paid off all the 15,000 Tanzania-Zambia Railways Authority workers, plus 34,000 council workers who were not receiving monthly salaries.
Over 258,000 farmers who supplied maize to Food Reserve Agency have also been paid.
The recruitment of 42,000-plus teachers and health personnel is in full swing and shall be concluded soon.
(Source: Zambia Daily Mail: JACK ZIMBA)
(Picture by Chellah Tukuta)
Zindaba Soko boss detained for disobeying court
FORMER Road Transport and Safety Agency chief executive officer Zindaba Soko has been detained for contempt of court after he travelled to Dubai for a job interview and missed a court session.
He missed a court session in a matter he and two others are accused of forging a passport and National Registration Card (NRC) bearing a dead person’s name.
About two weeks ago, Soko asked for permission to travel abroad but was advertised to attend court before leaving but the instruction was not obeyed.
Consequently, Lusaka magistrate Irene Wishimanga issued a bench warrant against Soko .
When the case resumed yesterday, Soko was brought to court under warrant and when asked why he missed court, he told the court that his lawyers misled him.
Soko told court that his lawyers told him that they would file a notice in court indicating his absentia when he travelled abroad.
This is in a case Soko, 45, a transport consultant of Old Lilayi Road, is jointly charged with Ibrahim Mbongo, 24, a student of Libala South, Kelvin Kisambara, a businessman, both of Tokyo Way.
They are charged with forgery, uttering false documents, being found in possession of property believed to have been stolen or unlawfully obtained.
Allegations are that between January 1 and 17 this year, with intent to defraud, the accused allegedly forged NRC255428/10/1 in the names John Tembo, who was reportedly dead, according the police.
The trio is further purported to show that the NRC was genuinely issued by the Department of National Registration, Passport and Citizenship, when infact not.
It is further alleged that Kisambara later fraudulently uttered the purportedly forged NRC to a banker at FNB bank in Chilenje.
(Mwebantu, Friday, 23rd February, 2024)
DJ in court after inserting manhood in four girls’ mouths
A 25-YEAR-OLD DISC Jockey (DJ) of Kanyama Township, Lusaka, has pleaded not guilty to the offence of unnatural offences after he allegedly sexually abused four girls by inserting his manhood in the mouth of four girls whom he invited to his house.
The victims are all under the age of 16.
The suspect, Kelvin Mutale, 25, has been charged with four counts of unnatural offences, an offence contrary to section 155(a) of the Penal Code.
It is alleged that on December 24, 2023, Mutale had carnal knowledge of four girls against the order of nature.
When he appeared in court yesterday, Mutale pleaded not guilty to all the four counts before Lusaka magistrate Crispin Hampungani for plea.
The accused then applied for bail pending trial, to which the State did not object.
Magistrate Hampungani granted Mutale bail in the sum of K20,000 and the money has to be paid in cash for the accused to be released on bond.
The court also asked the accused to bring two sureties.
The case has been adjourned to March 19 for trial.
(Mwebantu, Friday, 23rd February, 2024)
State to grab Charity Katanga’s buses
THE Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Gilbert Phiri has applied to have the 10 Higer buses worth K26million belonging to imprisoned former Deputy Inspector General of Police Charity Katanga forfeited to the State.
Further, the DPP wants forfeiture of K1.5million which is in the account for Chibeka Express Limited, the company which was operating the 10 Higer buses deemed to be proceeds of crime.
In a notice of motion filed by the DPP before the Lusaka Magistrate’s Court, the DPP says the properties should be seized because they are tainted.
The lawsuit comes after the Magistrate’s Court jailed Ms Katanga, Monday, after being found guilty of possession of the 10 buses deemed to be proceeds of crime, is the interested party.
In the DPPs documents, the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC),
chief investigations officer Ewdin Mwanza submits that Ms Katanga Monday, February, 19, Ms Katanga was tried and convicted of the offence of possession of suspected proceeds of crime.
Mr Mwanza submits that court record will show that the former senior police officer’s conviction is based on her being found in possession of 10 higer buses whose registration numbers are; BAF 5118 ZM, BAF 5119 ZM, BAG 8558 ZM, BAG 8559 ZM, BAG 8733 ZM, BAJ 2476 ZM, BAJ 2590 ZM, BAJ 2919 ZM, BAV 2931, BAL 9126 ZM, all worth K26,282,770.
Mr Mwanza submits that the record will show that I also seized K1,55,005.15 in Chibeka Express Limited account number 9130000699156 Stanbic bank Ndola main branch which received these funds from the operations of the 10 higer buses found by this honourable court to be proceeds of crime.
He adds that the matter is a proper one in which the court can order that the buses and money in the account be forfeited to the State for being proceeds of crime.
The State prays that this court orders that the properties be forfeited to the State and paid into the government’s consolidated fund held at Central Bank.
(Mwebantu, Thursday, 22nd February, 2024