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Zambian lawyer Edgar Lungu addresses his supporters ahead of the January 20 presidential by-election.
LUSAKA, ZAMBIA (JANUARY 19, 2014) (REUTERS) – Zambian lawyer Edgar Lungu addressed a large crowd of Patriotic Front (PF) supporters on Monday (January 19) ahead of the presidential by-election on Tuesday (January 20).
The premature election comes after the death of Michael Sata, leader and founder of the ruling Patriotic Front party, who died in office aged 77 in October.
Supporters believe Lungu is the right candidate to be the country’s president to pick-up where Sata left off.
“I believe in PF because Mr Michael Sata did very good work, so I believe Mr Lungu can continue with what Mr Sata believed,” said John Mwansa a Lungu supporter.
While Mary Sakala believes Lungu will make changes to help Zambian women.
“We know his group and we believe he can change some of the problems we face as women in Zambia. We believe in that. We’ve seen ever since they were voted into power, we saw some changes mainly in hospitals, and in some places there were no maternity wings,” said Salaka.
Lungu’s rapid rise from backroom politician to presidential front-runner in one of Africa’s most promising frontier markets has revealed tactical nous and a steely determination that few knew lay beneath his quiet exterior.
With another election due in 20 months when Sata’s first term would have ended, the winner will have little time to overturn a host of economic problems.
“The same way my boss (Michael Sata) loved you is how I will love you. The same way he suffered to take this country forward is how I will suffer for you,” added Lungu.
However, Zambia’s copper industry, the spluttering motor of one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies, has been at the heart of campaigning for Tuesday’s presidential election and poses a big headache for the country’s next leader.
“We want living standards to be affordable so that each and every one of you is proud of being Zambian. We just don’t want to talk a lot and anyhow, we want to listen to you and work,” said Lungu.
Hit by plummeting metal prices, accusations of corruption and a hike in taxes, mining companies say production and jobs are at risk unless the new president steps in.
The 58-year-old lawyer, is seen as the favourite over Hakainde Hichilema, 52, a cattle herder-turned-economist whose United Party for National Development has been wooing the middle-class and investors.
The stakes are high for Mr Lungu’s ruling Patriotic Front, which goes into the vote badly fractured by a bitter power struggle after Sata’s death in October, three years into his five-year term.
Leader of Zambia’s main opposition party says he plans to overhaul the country’s economy by reviewing various mining deals that will create more jobs for the locals.
LUSAKA, ZAMBIA (JANUARY 18, 2014) (REUTERS) – Leader of Zambia’s main opposition party told his supporters on Sunday (January 18) that he would create more jobs and “support weak members of society” by overhauling the country’s economy.
Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND), has so far contested and lost three Presidential election but is seen as a top contender in the January 20 polls to the ruling Patriotic Front’s candidate Edgar Lungu, who’s the Defence and Justice minister.
A successful businessman, Hichilema is seen as pro-business and the one likely to reverse Zambia’s recent image of an investor-hostile country, following a few takeovers of State entities such as Zambia Rails and ZAMTEL during the tenure of former president Michael Sata, who died in office in October aged 77.
“The 20 percent mineral royalty tax that has been imposed, it’s called mineral royalty, on certain mines, it constitutes what I define as a turnover tax, it doesn’t recognise the cost of production, and once you do a thing like that, you are going to kill mines. One mine, Lumwana, is already threatening to be closed, and if that happens, thousands of Zambians will to lose jobs and that’s unacceptable, because we already have high levels of unemployment. It’s like somebody who owns a dairy cow until blood comes out, and expects the milk the following day, it’s not possible,” said Hichilema from a rally in Lusaka.
“Our job as UPND and the reason why I am seeking public office, and I appeal, I’m making an appeal to all African leaders, our role as politicians of today, we should not seek professional politics. I’m not a professional politician, I don’t want to be a professional politician, I’m a missionary in politics. We want to create an attractive business and investment environment which will increase investment, support businesses to increase investments, grow our businesses, create the jobs, also ensure that we can generate fair tax revenue that we can use to support weak members of society,” he continued to say.
Hichilema was speaking at Lusaka’s Woodlands Stadium, where he addressed his supporters and urged them to vote in an election that had been created after Sata died in October in a London hospital.
Some supporters of said Hichilema could turn Zambia’s fortunes around, praising him for his business management skills and approach to politics.
“I am in support of President Hakainde Hichilema because I think at the moment he is the best candidate we have, so far, because of his policies and the team that surrounds him, unlike other candidates that are in the race,” said Mulasikwanda Masi, a Lusaka resident.
“He will improve health care. The other day I went to a local clinic and the services are very bad, a patient spends long hours in queue. HH (Hakainde Hichilema) will change all that,” echoed Christopher Mujika, a UNPD supporter.
According to the World Bank, Zambia’s poverty stands 70 percent, with many living below the poverty datum line of under $2 US dollars per day.
Zambia, which has enjoyed stability in its 50 years of self-rule endowed with numerous mineral and water resources and seen as one of the potential food basket for Southern Africa, is still grappling with high unemployment levels, corruption and a fragile democracy.
Hichilema condemns bad leadership and abuse of office by current and precious regimes for Zambia’s economic woes.
Recently, former President Rupiah Banda who was dislodged from office by the Patriotic Front and later blocked from contesting the election has thrown his weight behind the ruling party’s candidate Edgar Lungu, in a fashion many see is based on ethnic interests as both hail from one region.
But Neo Simutanyi, a Lusaka based political analyst, says the ruling party could lose the January 20 poll because of an increase in costs of living and its unfulfilled promises.
Simutanyi however says the ruling party would not go without a violent fight for power.
“The PF (Patriotic Front) are determined to win the election, want to win the election and will do everything to win the election, that makes it extremely important. It is important also in that it is the second time in the history of Zambia that we are using the constitution, abiding by the constitution to replace a head of state who has died, so it’s a test on whether we will be able to do so peacefully as was the case in 2008,” explained Simutanyi.
Eleven candidates are contesting in the poll, a situation Simutanyi sees as a sign of Zambia’s growing democracy, although he admits that the election would not be a free and fair one, given the level of abuse of state resources by the ruling party.