Zambia’s outgoing leader Edgar Lungu on Monday conceded defeat and congratulated his successor and longtime rival Hakainde Hichilema, who scored a landslide victory in a bitterly contested presidential election.
“I would therefore like to congratulate my brother… Hichilema for becoming the seventh republican president,” he said in a radio address.
Lungu promised to comply with the “constitutional provision for a peaceful transition of power”.
The 64-year-old, who came to power in 2015, said that when he had to serve out the term of his predecessor Michael Sata who died in office, that victory had been “unexpected” and he “accepted it with humility and gratitude”.
“I want to thank you, Zambian people, for giving me a great opportunity to be your president. I will forever cherish and appreciate the authority you invested in me.”
“All I wanted to do was to serve my country to the best of my abilities,” he said, admitting that there are “challenges on the way”.
Zambia’s main opposition candidate was leading Saturday in partial results for a tight presidential election while incumbent leader Edgar Lungu cried foul in three provinces.
Following a high turnout in Thursday’s vote, Hakainde Hichilema, 59, was ahead of Lungu, 64, in about 40 percent of the constituencies announced so far, even as EU observers said campaign conditions had been “unequal” and favoured the incumbent.
This is the third time Hichilema has challenged Lungu in what analysts said would be a closely-fought election amid growing resentment about rising living costs and crackdowns on dissent in the southern African country.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has so far released the results of 62 out of 156 constituencies, which put Hichilema ahead with 1,024,212 votes, compared to 562,523 for Lungu.
Both the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party and main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) claim their respective candidates are in the lead, citing their own tabulations.
Hundreds of UPND supporters marched through the capital Lusaka on Saturday, voicing impatience at the ECZ.
Soldiers deployed to police Thursday’s vote following violent pre-election clashes monitored the scene from armoured military vehicles.
Voting dragged on late into the night and saw sporadic clashes and troop reinforcements in three provinces after two deaths were reported on election day, including a ruling party chairman.
Lungu on Saturday said the violence, which was concentrated in UPND strongholds, rendered the election unfair.
“With polling agents having been attacked and chased from polling stations, we were reduced to competing in seven (out of ten) provinces,” he said in a statement, adding that the PF was “consulting on the next course of action”.
Some analysts have expressed concern that Lungu might not accept anything other than victory.
Social media access, throttled in Lusaka just before Hichilema cast his vote, was fully restored on Saturday following a high court order.
The final outcome is set be announced within 72 hours of the last polling station’s closing time, meaning the wait could stretch to early Monday.
There has been widespread concern about election rigging.
Scuffles occurred at several polling stations after people were accused of carrying pre-marked ballot papers, which the ECZ has denied.
The head of the African Union’s observer mission, Ernest Bai Koroma — a former president of Sierra Leone — on Saturday said voting “operations were conducted in a peaceful, transparent and professional manner”.
European Union counterparts were slightly more critical of the poll, denouncing the internet curbs and “unequal campaign conditions”.
The electoral process was “technically well-managed” but “marred by… restrictions on freedoms of assembly and movement, and abuse of incumbency”, chief observer Maria Arena told a press briefing.
Security forces blocked Hichilema from campaigning in several parts of the country, including the strategic Copperbelt Province, citing breaches of coronavirus measures and a public order act.
Around seven million people were registered to vote, the majority aged between 24 and 34, out of a population of over 17 million.
Alongside the president, they also elected a parliamentary representative, a mayor and local councillor.
Hichilema is running for the sixth time, backed by an alliance of ten opposition parties.
Zambian leader Edgar Lungu on Sunday suffered an attack of dizziness that prompted a sudden halt to television coverage of an official ceremony in the southern African nation, the cabinet secretary said.
Lungu, who is campaigning for re-election in August, had been attending a defence forces Commemoration Day event, which was brought to a swift end.
“President of Zambia Edgar Lungu this afternoon experienced sudden dizziness,” said cabinet secretary Simon Miti in a statement
“He recovered immediately and walked to the official car and returned to his residence at State House.”
Miti added that the 64-year-old was well and would continue to discharge his duties.
Lungu has a rare stomach disorder called achalasia and was taken ill in public in 2015 and hospitalised.
He came to power in 2014, initially replacing Michael Sata who died unexpectedly before the end of his term. He then went on to win polls in 2016.
Zambia’s top opposition figure Hakainde Hichilemaon is again set to be his main rival for the presidency.
The landlocked southern African country has enjoyed relative stability since its first multi-party elections in 1991.
Struggling with mounting debt and the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, Lungu has been scrambling to boost public support ahead of the August 12 polls, which are for parliament as well as the president.
Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu on Thursday announced the immediate reopening of all three of the landlocked country’s international airports to help revitalise the tourism sector hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.
Lungu said decreased economic activity since the start of April caused a loss in revenues of 20.8 billion kwachas ($1.1 billion).
He announced the reopening of the three international airports with “immediate” effect to help boost earnings, adding: “In the tourism sector… we have also got to get back to work.”
Zambia’s tourism industry — with the stunning Victoria Falls as its flagship attraction — contributed $1.8 billion to the national economy in 2018, according to data by the World Travel and Tourism Council.
Lungu directed the ministers of communication, finance, home affairs and tourism to work together to devise stringent health guidelines for arriving tourists.
Over the last 24 hours, Zambia recorded eight new coronavirus cases, for a total of 1,497 with 18 deaths. The number of recoveries now stands at 1,223.
The president urged Zambia’s more than 17 million citizens to observe high standards of hygiene as the winter season peaks in the southern hemisphere, warning that the numbers of coronavirus cases in Zambia could soar.
Zambian President Edgar Lungu cut his salary and those of senior cabinet ministers Friday, as higher electricity and fuel prices take effect, his office said.
The price of petrol gained 10 percent to 17.62 kwacha ($1.27) per litre on Thursday, while that for diesel fuel rose by 9.6 percent to 15.59 kwacha.
The cost of electricity is to soar by 115 per cent starting January 1.
The stiff hikes for electricity and fuel have sparked an uproar on social media where many Zambians vented their anger.
The cut in the president’s salary and those of senior ministers is in the range of 15 to 20 per cent.
“The money realised will go into cushioning the impact on the vulnerable in society. The money realised from this decision will go towards ameliorating the impact that the increase would have brought on the masses,” Lungu’s press aide Isaac Chipampe said in a statement.
Lungu said he was aware of the suffering that the Zambians were going through as a result of the tariff hikes but expressed confidence that the economy would rebound in 2020 owing to measures that the government has put in place.
They include reducing travel by senior government officials.
Zambian President Edgar Lungu wants the US to recall its ambassador to Lusaka for criticising the southern African nation over a 15-year jail term slapped on two gay men for consensual sex.
Daniel Foote came under fire in Zambia after he expressed horror over the high court ruling late last month and urged Lusaka to review laws that discriminate against minority groups.
“You need to know that we have complained officially to the American government and we are waiting for their response because we don’t want such people in our midst,” Lungu said in comments on state-owned radio.
His press aide Isaac Chipampe late on Sunday said the protest letter Lungu was referring was the same one issued by Foreign Minister Joseph Malanji.
“The government is still waiting for a response from the United States government concerning the complaint,” said Chipampe.
Foote had told a news conference that Zambia, which relies on overseas aid, wanted diplomats “with open pocketbooks and closed mouths.”
Homosexuality is outlawed in the southern African country which also faces a high HIV burden.
Over the last 15 years, the US has provided more than $4 billion (3.6 billion euros) to fight HIV/AIDS in Zambia.
Zambia’s top court ruled Friday that President Edgar Lungu is eligible to run for re-election in 2021 polls after an opposition party argued he would exceed the constitution’s two term limit.
Lungu completed former president Michael Sata’s term after he died in 2015 before winning a full term in his own right in 2016.
“The presidential tenure starting on January 25, 2015 to September 13, 2016 cannot be considered as a full term,” said constitutional court judge Hildah Chibomba.
Lungu announced in January 2017 that he would seek a fresh five-year term in 2021, prompting opposition parties to block him.
The opposition United Party for National Development and the Law Association of Zambia lawyers’ association argued he was ineligible to run, having effectively served across two terms.
Three other opposition parties simply sought the court’s opinion on the matter.
“I hope the debate comes to an end. This is a victory for Lungu, it’s a victory for the (ruling) Patriotic Front and a victory for the people of Zambia,” said the party’s secretary general Davies Mwila who spoke outside court.
Hundreds of Lungu’s supporters celebrated outside the court following its ruling.
In 2017 Lungu warned Zambia’s judges against blocking him from running in the 2021 vote, saying a judicial intervention like that seen in Kenya could plunge the country into chaos.
Kenya was rocked by two months of political drama and acrimony, triggered by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn an election in August 2017 over widespread irregularities.
President Lungu has been accused of piling up foreign debt and cracking down on dissent since winning the contested election in 2016.
Zambia’s opposition has accused Lungu of increasingly authoritarian behaviour as several politicians and activists critical of his regime have faced legal action.
Zambia’s president Edgar Lungu has deployed the army to help combat a cholera outbreak that has claimed 41 lives in the capital Lusaka and affected 1,550 more since September.
The initial outbreak began on September 28 according to the World Health Organization and Zambia’s health ministry subsequently launched efforts to limit the spread of the disease.
Cholera is a water-borne disease which goes hand in hand with poverty and while readily treatable can be lethal if unaddressed.
“I have directed all the three wings of the Defence Force to join the Ministry of Health… to escalate efforts to minimise the spread of cholera in our capital city and the rest of the country,” Lungu wrote on his official, verified Facebook page late Friday.
“Lusaka has been recording an average of 60 new cases every day. I’ve noted with great sadness that a total of 41 people have died of the disease since its outbreak.
“The outbreak was initially linked to contaminated water from shallow wells and unsanitary conditions in the residential and public areas affected. But we now note that the spread of cholera is being propagated through contaminated food.”
Lungu added that there would be a crackdown on street food stalls, bars and restaurants that do not meet minimum food hygiene standards.
“I am deeply concerned at the rampaging advance of the outbreak,” he said.
Zambia will press on with swearing in its president, Edgar Lungu, for another five-year-term next week, after the opposition missed a deadline to challenge his re-election, a senior official said on Monday.
Opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema had filed a petition in constitutional court last month, saying the Aug. 11 vote was rigged and Lungu’s victory should be annulled. But he missed a Friday deadline to present evidence to back up his charge, and the top court ruled on Monday not to extend the time limit.
Hichilema’s UPND party said it rejected the ruling.
“We wish to put it on record that we have not lost an election, neither have we lost the petition which was before the Constitutional Court,” the party said in a statement.
“We have rejected the court ruling in that the judgment was passed on an application from the respondents without allowing us to respond,” it said, without outlining its next move.
Lungu, who won 50.35 percent of the vote according to the official results, will take the oath of office on Tuesday next week, later than the original Aug. 23 date, cabinet secretary Roland Msiska said.
Lungu has been the head of the ruling Patriotic Front since its leader, Michael Sata, died in 2014. He won the presidency the following year, defeating Hichilema in their first electoral confrontation.
Zambia is Africa’s second-largest copper producer, and slumping commodity prices have afflicted it with mine closures, rising unemployment, power shortages and soaring food prices.
Zambia’s incumbent, President Edgar Lungu, will be sworn into office for a new 5-year term on Tuesday next week, a government official said on Monday.
Secretary to the Cabinet, Roland Msiska, said in a statement that the government would proceed with the inauguration as the Constitutional Court has missed a 14-day deadline to rule on the opposition’s legal challenge to the presidential vote.