- Kennedy Gundway
- BBC News, Lusaka
Hakindi Hezlima was lucky for the sixth time and finally became the president of Zambia after five failed attempts. Hechelma defeated his main rival, incumbent President Edgar Lanco, by more than a million votes.
But who is the new president? Why did he win after so many years of failure?
Hechelema, 59, describes himself as a normal “herdsman” who grazed his family’s cattle during his youth before becoming one of Zambia’s richest.
Elected President of the United National Party for National Development and the leader is widely referred to as “HH”. He was born into a humble environment before receiving a scholarship to the University of Zambia and later earned an MBA from the University of Birmingham in the UK.
He continued to amass wealth in finance, property, animal husbandry, health and tourism.
He used his two professional backgrounds to impress voters.
He told voters that in a copper-rich country where unemployment is high, a successful entrepreneur is needed to understand how to move the economy. He used his agricultural roots to appeal to the country’s farmers, saying Zambia could be turned into a food basket for the region.
But Hechelema’s ability to interact with young voters may be the biggest factor in her success. More than half of the seven million registered voters in Zambia are under the age of 35. One in five of them are unemployed.
The ruling National Front came to power in 2011 promising “lower taxes, more money in people’s pockets and more jobs.” But it did not benefit many young people and they voted for Hislema by the millions.
One of the ways he interacts with young people is through social media. This is not the first election in which Hezelema has tried to use Facebook and Twitter to communicate with voters, but he recently lifted the ban.
He was ready to take on “dirty” games.
Last year he released a video entitled “The Story of Two Professionals …” which introduced Hezelima as a brilliant and responsible entrepreneur and Longo introduced all his money as a spender in bars and nightclubs. “Which one is smarter?” Listen to the video.
Hezzelema often commented on topics he talked about on social media outside of politics, especially football – a definite way to connect with voters. He would sometimes make fun of Manchester United and Arsenal fans.
He also congratulated the Zambian players who recently went on to make big bucks in Europe, including Fatson Sakala, who recently joined Leicester City and signed for the Scottish Champions Rangers.
He has been commenting on their pre-season friendships and seems to take a real interest in their lives. Lango tried similar tricks, but many felt he had been imposed.
Hechellema often uses slang on social media, and not only the language of the business elite, but also words that are considered the language of the people in markets and bars.
It seems to have worked. Thousands of Hechillema supporters took to the streets of Lusaka after his victory.
Hechellema showed resilience in her political career. In addition to his five electoral defeats, he often reminds people that he has been arrested 15 times since entering politics.
In 2016, he was charged with treason for failing to make way for a presidential motorcade. He spent four months in maximum security prison before the charges were dropped. In his acceptance speech, President-elect Hechillema extended an olive branch to his predecessor.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be fine, you won’t face punishment or be subjected to tear gas,” Hezlima said as he sought to remain silent and intimidate as opposition leader.
After finally getting the best job, Hezlima will no doubt celebrate. But the newly elected president must act quickly in a country facing many problems.
The cost of living has risen sharply, coupled with rising unemployment. For the first time since 1998, Zambia entered the recession last year, with the Govt-19 epidemic spreading around the world.
As for the amount the government has to pay to foreign donors, it is estimated to be more than $ 12 billion.
According to credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s Global, the government is threatening to spend at least 30% of its revenue on interest earned on these loans.
Last year, Zambia failed to pay interest, becoming the first African country to default on a loan during an outbreak. It also faces difficulties in repaying other loans.
He expects Hechilloma’s reputation to decline if he is unable to fix some of these problems quickly.
“Coffee trailblazer. Social media ninja. Unapologetic web guru. Friendly music fan. Alcohol fanatic.”