President Hakainde Hichilema is quickly squandering the respect the country once held on the international stage. (Photo by Darren Stewart/Gallo Images via Getty Images)
On 24 August, Hakainde Hichilema took the oath of office as Zambia’s seventh president after inflicting a comprehensive election defeat on the incumbent, Edgar Lungu. He inherited a country with a major debt crisis and that is in economic decline.
So what has he achieved in his first 100 days? On governance, Hichilema has restored the rule of law and allowed free speech. Formerly banned radio and television stations are now operating. He also issued an early announcement that required the police to remove party cadres/activists from bus stations and other areas to prevent them from extorting money. This is a major change from the Lungu era.
But in other areas the situation is less clear cut. Hichilema’s supporters expected him to go full throttle on the fight against corruption, but some think he has been too soft, with many in his party and outside expressing displeasure. This is despite Hichilema promising to establish fast-track courts for economic crimes when he opened parliament on September 10.
On the economic front, he has tried hard to boost the economy by stabilising the kwacha and by increasing the Constituency Development Fund from K1.6-million to K25.7-million to make decentralisation a reality in the 2020 budget. Constituency projects are also intended to create jobs to tackle high unemployment, a critical issue if Hichilema is to retain the support of young Zambians.
But while relations between the government, foreign donors and the International Monetary Fund have improved, there has yet to be any concrete progress over the two most pressing issues facing the country — economic bail-out and debt-restructuring on the one hand, and the management of the country’s economically and symbolically important copper mines on the other.
Hichilema’s plea has been that people must give him time as he restores order. This is a reasonable request given the problems he faces. But for the hungry and unemployed such patience is not a luxury they can afford.
This article first appeared in The Continent, the pan-African weekly newspaper designed to be read and shared on WhatsApp. Download your free copy here