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Zimbabwe’s Opposition Wants to Live Up to Zambia’s Example

Following the democratic election of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema in Zambia, opposition leaders in neighbouring Zimbabwe are looking on in admiration, promising to chart a similar path to restore a civil transfer of power.

The ripple effects of this message have sparked frenzied exchanges between the main opposition politician, Nelson Chamisa, and officials of the ruling Zanu-PF party, which has been in power since independence in 1980.

“Zimbabwe you are next,” the opposition leader tweeted, in a post congratulating Mr Hichilema.

President Emmerson Mnagangwa retorted: “What happened in Zambia will not happen here.”

His spokesperson even hinted that the army would not allow a transfer of power to the opposition.

But a spokesperson for Mr Chamisa’s MDC-Alliance, Fadzayi Mahere, told the BBC that Mr Hichilema’s victory showed “that the fight for democracy can be won, that people can get together to remove a dictatorship”.

Ms Mahere added that there was “no shortcut to winning”.

She said Zimbabwe’s opposition would have to emulate Mr Hichilema’s United Party for National Development (UPND) party by:

  • registering new voters
  • engaging the youth
  • protecting the vote from rigging
  • and, most importantly, focusing on the key issues that people want addressed – fixing the battered economy, creating jobs for the many unemployed youths, and ending the culture of impunity in government.

It is a message Mmusi Maimane, the former South African opposition leader and a friend of Mr Hichilema, has also been pushing.

He egged on the MDC-Alliance, saying: “Zimbabwe, the example has been set.”

“The people of Zambia have rejected poverty and corruption. The people of Zambia have rejected arrogance and laziness. They have chosen a future worth working for,” Mr Maimane added in his message.