Hichilema: Patience pays for Zambia’s new leader

The political journey of Zambia's President-elect Hakainde Hichilema is a perfect example of the old adage, “If at first you…

The political journey of Zambia’s President-elect Hakainde Hichilema is a perfect example of the old adage, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try and try again” coming to life.Hichilema, 59, had his first shot at the Zambian presidency in 2006 when he contested under the banner of the United Democratic Alliance, a coalition involving his United Party for National Development (UPND), the Forum for Democracy and Development and Zambia’s first post-independence ruling party, United National Independence Party.

As expected, his first foray into the presidential race was not a fruitful one, coming a distant third behind eventual winner Levy Mwanawasa of the Movement for Multi-Party Democracy (MMD) who got 42.98 percent of the ballots against 29.37 percent for Michael Sata of the Patriotic Front and 25.32 percent for Hichilema.

Popularly known as “HH”, Hichilema contested in the 2008 snap election following the death of Mwanawasa in 2007 but did not do well, managing only 19.96 percent of the valid ballots.

Undeterred, the wealthy businessman had another go at a ticket to State House in 2011, but lost further ground and managed to garner 18.54 percent of the votes in an election won by Sata.

In snap elections held in January 2015 following the death of Sata in 2014, Hichilema narrowly lost to PF’s presidential candidate Edgar Lungu, losing by just over 27,000 votes. 

It was a similar story in the 2016 general elections, with the opposition leader missing by about 100,000 votes against Lungu.

It was, however, sixth time lucky in 2021 for the economist, beating his perennial rival, Lungu, despite attempts by the incumbent to close the democratic space ahead of and during the August 12 elections.

Hichilema secured 2,810,777 votes against 1,814,201 for Lungu who came second in a field of 17 presidential candidates.

The incoming Zambian president was in June 1962 and holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business Administration from the University of Zambia and a Masters of Business Administration in Finance and Business Strategy from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom.

A millionaire and Zambia’s second-largest cattle rancher, the president-elect is married to Mutinta and has three children. 

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