PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa and his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday held a private meeting in which the election of Zambia’s opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema as the country’s new leader among other issues became topical, The NewsHawks has learnt.
The two presidents, who both lead revolutionary parties, held a meeting on the sidelines of the Southern African Development Community 41st summit of heads of state and government in Lilongwe, Malawi.
The meeting, sources said, was attended by Zimbabwe’s Foreign Affairs minister Frederick Shava, Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri and officials from the South African government.
The election of Hichilema, according to diplomatic sources who spoke to The NewsHawks, surprised Mnangagwa and Ramaphosa who both had cordial relations with Zambia’s outgoing president Edgar Lungu. Last week’s election was Hichilema’s sixth attempt at winning the presidency.
“The President-elect has strong connections with both Zimbabwe’s and South Africa’s main opposition parties and discussions on how revolutionary parties like the ANC and Zanu PF can consolidate their positions were discussed. This election showed that political winds of change were ushered in by young people who are often accused of being reluctant to vote,” a source familiar with the discussions said.
“The leaders also discussed Sadc’s role in the Mozambican conflict. If you may recall last month, South Africa’s then Defence minister, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, expressed her displeasure on why Rwandan troops had been deployed ahead of the regional bloc. In light of this, charting the way forward thus became paramount for the two leaders.”
In July, Rwanda announced that it would put boots on the ground to help stem a conflict which has claimed thousands of lives following weeks of dithering by the regional bloc.
The conflict has also resulted in Total, a French-headquartered energy group, suspending its multi-billion-dollar energy project in the region.
Zimbabwe’s presidential spokesperson George Charamba could not be reached for comment at the time of going to press.
Hichilema, who won a landslide over incumbent Lungu, has close links to Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the opposition One South Africa Movement.
The President-elect is also an associate of MDC-Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa. Mnangagwa, who had a wafer-thin lead on Chamisa in the controversial 2018 general elections, is expected to face his nemesis in the 2023 polls.
In his acceptance speech, President-elect Hichilema extended an olive branch to his predecessor who in the past had tormented him. After the 2016 election, he was charged with treason for allegedly failing to give way to the presidential motorcade.
He spent four months in a maximum-security jail before the charges were dropped.
“Don’t worry, you’ll be OK, you won’t face retribution or get teargassed,” Hichilema, who was often attacked in what he said were attempts to silence and intimidate him as an opposition leader, said.
He pledged to be the president of all Zambians, whether they voted for him or not.
In its final tally, the electoral commission said Hichilema had won 2 810 777 votes to Lungu’s 1 814 201 in last Thursday’s election. There were seven million registered voters.