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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.