Hakainde Hichilema

Who Is Hakainde Hichilema, The Zambian ‘Cattle Boy’ Who Became President

Hakainde Hichilema is a veteran opposition politician who made six bids for Zambia’s presidenency before finally landing the top job in a landslide.

Mr Hichilema, 59, has described himself as an ordinary “cattle boy”, who herded his family’s livestock in his youth before going on to become one of Zambia’s richest men.

The president-elect and leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND) is widely referred to as HH. He was born into humble beginnings before managing to get a scholarship to the University of Zambia, and later graduated with an MBA degree from the University of Birmingham in the UK.

He went on to make a fortune in finance, property, ranching, healthcare and tourism and used both aspects of his background to appeal to voters.
He told voters that they needed a successful businessman to understand how to get the economy moving in the copper-rich nation, where there is high unemployment. He also used his agricultural roots to appeal to the country’s farmers, saying he could turn Zambia into a food basket for the region.

The governing Patriotic Front (PF) swept to power in 2011 on the promise of “less taxes, more money in people’s pockets and more jobs”. But this did not materialise for many young people and they turned out in their millions for Mr Hichilema.

One of the ways he connected with young people was through social media. This was not the first election that Mr Hichilema attempted to use the likes of Facebook and Twitter to connect with voters, but he has recently upped his game.
In 2020, he released a video entitled “The tale of two professionals…” which presented Mr Hichilema as a shrewd and responsible businessman, and Mr Lungu as someone who spent all his money in bars and nightclubs.”Which of these two is smarter?” the video asked.

Hichilema ran as the UPND candidate in the 2008 elections which was called following the death of President Levy Mwanawasa.

He came 3rd with 19.7% of the vote. In June 2009, Hichilema’s party, the UPND, formed a pact with Michael Sata’s Patriotic Front (PF) to contest the 2011 election together.

However, indecision on the pact candidate, deep mistrust and accusations of tribalism from both sides resulted in the collapse of the pact in March 2011.

He was one of the two main candidates in the January 2015 elections which he lost by a narrow margin of 27,757 votes (1.66%) against the ruling party’s candidate, Edgar Lungu Edgar

Hichilema denounced the election as a sham and urged his supporters to remain calm. He again faced Lungu as the main opposition candidate in the August 2016 presidential elections, and was again narrowly defeated.

After the 2016 election, he faced treason charges for allegedly failing to pull over to give way to the presidential motorcade.

He spent four months in a maximum-security jail before the charges were dropped.
Hichilema was born into a poor family in the southern district of Monze, but says his “grit and determination” at school won him a scholarship to the University of Zambia.

He graduated with a degree in economics and business administration before getting an MBA degree at Britain’s University of Birmingham.

At age 26, he was already CEO of the Zambian branch of a large international accountancy firm, according to his party.

He worked his way up to become one of the country’s wealthiest men, with business interests spanning finance, ranching, property, healthcare and tourism.

Critics had viewed him as a political outsider, an economic jargon-spouting corporate leader who was catapulted into politics following the 2006 death of Anderson Mazoka, former leader of the UPND, a party that Hichilema bankrolled at the time.

But recently, the man popularly known by his initials “HH” or affectionately referred to as “Bally”, slang for dad, “has tried to blend with the ordinary (people) much more, swapping tailored business suits with casual fatigues or jeans,” according to analyst O’Brien Kaaba.

Recently Hichilema vowed to leave office peacefully after serving his term.
“I want to assure the people of Zambia in advance – when our time to leave comes we will graciously leave,” he said.

Hakainde Hichilema is a Christian from the Tonga ethnic group, who is married to Mutinta and has three children who ran for President for a sixth time in the election held on 12 August 2021

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