Lusaka — President Robert Mugabe yesterday came face to face with how Zambians feel about his continued 35-years grip on power.
Huge crowds of Zambians yesterday chanted “Mugabe must go!” at the Radisson Blu Hotel in the capital Lusaka. A video of the demo showing hundreds of people waving hands in the air and chanting their protests went viral on social site, YouTube.
It was not clear what sparked the demonstrations or who organised them. It could also not be established yesterday if the demonstrators had managed to get Mugabe’s attention or if the President responded in any way.
Efforts to get details of the goings-on in Lusaka were fruitless last night as Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba could not be reached on his phone. Zanu PF deputy director of information, Psychology Maziwisa expressed surprise at the question saying he was in the dark over the incident.
“Is that so?” he asked. “I am not aware. I am in Zimbabwe.”
The President was hosted to a dinner by the Zimbabwean embassy in Lusaka on Friday evening upon arrival.
Mugabe — who is chairman of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) and incoming African Union (AU) chair — is in Lusaka where he went on Friday to attend the inauguration of Zambia’s new president.
This was despite the fact that ballots were still being counted and no winner had been declared.
The Radisson Blu Hotel is the current base of the opposition candidate Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development who appeared to have lost the election by the time of going to press last night.
Ruling party Patriotic Front candidate Edgar Lungu was tipped to win the presidential election after building what appeared to be an unassailable lead against Hichilema.
The elections in Zambia followed the death of President Michael Sata in October last year.
Hichilema, who is believed to have narrowly lost the presidential by-election, has claimed that Lungu stole the polls. He first complained on the very first day of voting, claiming government helicopters refused to carry his observers to the countryside despite an earlier agreement.
On his party website — although he accepted the outcome of the poll — he claimed the playing field was not level.
He said: “We have experienced widespread violence against our supporters and party members throughout the campaign, as well as deep irregularities in the counting process.”
Alluding to discrepancies in the counting of votes, Hachilema said: “We know that democracy lies not only in the voting, but in the counting.”
Hachilema concluded his statement: “We in the UPND, together with our partners and ordinary citizens, will be watching closely and we will be ready to win another election in 20 months’ time under a new constitution. Despite the fact that the election was stolen from us, I urge all our party members and supporters across our country to remain calm and peaceful for the good of Zambia.”
Lungu was set to be inaugurated last night as Zambia’s 6th President.
Mugabe — Zimbabwe’s only President since independence — arrived in Zimbabwe on Thursday from a five-week long holiday in the Far East and proceeded to Lusaka the following day for the inauguration of a new president.
This attracted furore from many quarters who question the rationale of Mugabe’s action given his extended leave in the Far East and the burning issues requiring his attention back home.
Zimbabwean Britain-based lawyer Alex Magaisa asked: “Just heard that President Mugabe [who arrived home yesterday after a long absence] flew to Lusaka for the inauguration of the new Zambian President tomorrow. Now, can someone please tell me, have the results of the Zambian election been announced already? Who is the President-elect of Zambia?”
— By Our Staff/Sapa