Zambia’s incoming president Hakainde Hichilema has broken with tradition by inviting prominent opposition leaders from the region for his inauguration on Tuesday.
Mr Hichilema, who beat the incumbent President Edgar Lungu by a million votes in the August 12 presidential election, is hosting opposition leaders from Zimbabwe, South Africa, Botswana and Tanzania, among other countries.
His United Party for National Development (UPND) said the decision to invite both incumbent and opposition leaders demonstrates that the new administration in Zambia would be different.
Joseph Kalimbwe, the UPND spokesperson, said they cannot stop associating with opposition parties such as the MDC Alliance in Zimbabwe because they supported their “struggle.”
“By inviting incumbent presidents and main opposition leaders from Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Botswana and other African countries, the UPND is sending a very strong message not just in Zambia but across Africa ‘we must do away with the politics of division based on opposing views’,” Mr Kalimbwe said on Twitter.
“Support for the struggles of friends and comrades across our continent (Zimbabwe, Namibia, Tanzania- Africa) is unwavering – it will not stop.
“They chose the hard path of supporting our UPND struggles when others refused to associate with us in the opposition.”
Mr Hichilema was part of an alliance of opposition parties in southern Africa, led by South Africa’s Mmusi Maimane. The alliance’s objective is to transform the politics in the region and fight autocrats.
In Zimbabwe, the new Zambian leader’s close ties with Mr Nelson Chamisa, a fierce rival of President Emmerson Mnangagwa, has become a source of discomfort for the ruling party.
President Mnangagwa last week said “if anyone dreams of what happened in Zambia crossing over here, they must wake up and brew beer; ancestral spirits have deserted you.”
Mr Chamisa, who narrowly lost to the Zimbabwean ruler in the 2018 elections, described Mr Hichilema’s victory as inspirational.
“It started in Malawi and swept into Zambia and now we can smell the sweet scent here in Zimbabwe,” he said. “It is coming.”
President Mnangagwa last week said that he persuaded President Lungu to concede defeat for the sake of peace in Zambia and the region.