ZAMBIA: Is HH Paranoid?
30 August 2021

By Chimwemwe Mwanza| The sight of an unfamiliar aide de camp (ADC) presiding over President Hakainde Hichilema’s (HH)’s security detail at his inauguration, elicited a sharp rebuke from Raphael Nakachinda.

The charge? Nakachinda who is the former Water Development and Sanitation Minister in the PF government lashed out at HH accusing him of excessive paranoia – this as demonstrated by the President’s decision to co-opt civilians in his security team. While it may be tempting to dismiss Nakachinda’s rebuke as mere politicking, his message certainly has a tacit bearing on HH’s political judgement or lack-off.

Then amidst this moment of madness, UPND Secretary General, Batuke Imenda releases an unsolicited statement to the effect that HH won’t be taking up residency at state house but would instead be conducting his state duties from his private residency in New Kasama. This clumsy statement simply lent credence to Nakachinda’s charge.
A subsequent but balanced view from Lusaka lawyer Dickson Jere not only exposed security lapses at HH’s private residency but justified reasons for the urgent need by the President to move to State House. As a former Press Aide to the fourth Republican President Rupiah Banda, no one is a better subject matter expert on State House security than Jere – he has obviously traversed every inch of State House hence his view inadvertently served to reinforce Nakachinda’s assertion.

Here is a simple interpretation of both Nakachinda’s narrative and Imenda’s reckless statement. Simply put: HH is clumsy or at least is a reckless leader, period.
So, what then is Nakachinda’s angst? Easy to comprehend. The fact that the new President has set a high moral bar is indisputable. HH’s victory speech delivered shortly after he was declared winner of the Presidential polls was a master stroke – very conciliatory and magnanimous which is why, no mud thrown at his persona has stuck to date. He has displayed nothing but political maturity since assuming office –and there seems to be a return of decorum to the Presidency.
Enter Nakachinda – this spoiler is fast becoming a poster boy for mud-slinging politics. While his grievances border on pettiness, he seems to have an uncanny way of elevating these to national discourse; and he knows very well how to land a sucker punch, at least give him some credit. For example, look at his views on free education as espoused in the UPND manifesto.

Although reckless in the manner of delivery, he is within his right to ask Zambians to stop paying school fees – this to honour UPND’s promise of free education once it assumes power. In truth, it is UPND and not Nakachinda that authored this manifesto, and all he is simply doing is holding them to account. Yet the caveat is that the manifesto does not give a time frame by when UPND would implement its promise, and this is something that he willfully forgets to mention.
The strategy is to prey on frustrations of the struggling working class. It is this segment of a mass coalition that helped to eject his former employers from government and his hope is to use the same base to help reverse the roles, come 2026. Who knows, five years from now, the free education mantra could well become the UPND’s comeuppance – pretty much like a PF’s ‘More Money in Your Pockets’ moment.

Is HH paranoid?

Only he can answer. In the absence of a firm response, attention will shift to his actions and optics do matter in politics. But here is a critical point. HH has no obligation whatsoever to return former President Edgar Lungu’s securocrats. In fairness, they have consistently demonstrated their bias against his security interests. It is sacked Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja that sent a battalion of policemen to smoke him out of a bunker in his house – from where he was hiding in fear of persecution.

Having charged him with a laughable treason case, the same police establishment threw him into a tiny Lilayi prison cell where he spent almost 100 days in solitary confinement. It is them that consistently blocked him from crisscrossing the country in the build up to elections. It is them that denied him air permits to fly and campaign across the country. It is them that locked him at the airport for almost three hours before granting him a permit to campaign in Chipata. It is them and a part of the PF establishment that were on standby in the streets ready to pounce on him and possibly send him back to Lilayi had he lost the election – lest we forget the ‘umulandu tawu bola’ reminder issued by one losing Presidential candidate prior to the elections.

How convenient then that he should suddenly be made to feel guilty for taking responsibility of his own security detail? Mind you, the likes of Nakachinda are graduates of the PF’s vuvuzela and social media mob that easily drowns intellectual discourse. Theirs has been and is still diversionary politics whose mission has been to litigate and relitigate non-existent issues so their target or critics could be vilified in a court of public opinion. Thanks in part to an electorate weary of regurgitated lies, their luck has finally run out – hence the flood in public apologies we are reading and heading HH’s way.

Here are facts though. HH is in no way a political messiah that has come to liberate Zambia from poverty, and he needs to stop pretending as such. The election is over, he better start tapering down and focus on moderating people’s expectations. His recent statement that state coffers were empty made shortly after he announced Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane’s appointment as the new Finance Minister was not only a start but offered an indication that he is slowly awakening to reality.

And the reality is that the economic wrought presided over by PF has effectively hollowed Zambia’s economic and industrial base. For example, ZESCO’s debt alone is north of 25% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Any recall of the power utility’s loans by its lenders would be catastrophic enough to plunge the country into economic distress. Our mining industry is literally limping amid a commodities boom. But such is our reality that it seems as if the PF’s raison d’etre was to destroy every productive sector of the economy.

In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic has not only cut the global supply chain but will continue to impact key industries such as tourism. The task of rebuilding the economy will require tough choices and possible elimination of social spending – a development that will likely alienate the UPND from its electoral coalition. The consolation though is that he has both the goodwill and social capital including an emphatic mandate he could use as a buffer for speaking truth to reality.

He not only has investors waiting to deploy capital into Zambia, but the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is waiting to lend a hand. That the local currency and its dollar bonds appreciated to become the world’s best performers barely a week since he assumed office is telling of investor confidence in his regime. As a proven businessman, he sits on the right side of integrity, yet all this could count for nothing if he fails to meet even a fraction of his promises to the electorate.

Yet he needs to be consistently reminded that running a country is different to managing a business which is why no one is better placed to provide these checks and balances than the likes of Nakachinda and his ilk.