A former Namibian student leader has been publicly credited for helping to deliver the election for Zambia’s president-elect Hakainde Hichilema.
The business tycoon and opposition leader, at his sixth attempt at winning the presidency, won by landslide by garnering over 2.8 million votes compared to 1.8 million secured by incumbent Edgar Lungu.
Lungu was criticised for alleged human rights abuses, corruption, a failing economy and massive unemployment.
Hichilema, who was charged with treason in 2016 for allegedly failing to give way to the presidential motorcade of Lungu, was jailed for four months before charges were dropped.
Yesterday, in his acceptance speech, Hichilema assured Lungu that he would not face retribution.
At the heart of Hichilema’s victory was the communications skills and unrelenting work ethic of a former University of Namibia (Unam) student representative council (SRC) president who helped run an effective online campaign that brought young voters to the polls in numbers.
For the past couple of years, 28-year-old Joseph Kalimbwe, has been working as information and publicity secretary for the victorious United Party for National Development (UPND).
“It is a very emotional moment because we have been going through some difficulties and it is interesting that we emerged victoriously. I congratulate the people of Zambia for standing up for themselves,” Kalimbwe told New Era in an interview yesterday.
Passionate about empowering young people in his country and the rest of Africa, Kalimbwe is dedicated to making sure they have the support they need to stand on their own feet.
“My role has been to mobilise young people in the communities, going to them, engage them, to make them understand why it was important to have new leadership. It was very difficult to mobilise, particularly to remove the regime as repressive as Lungu’s one, that is why we needed to engage the masses of our people, particularly the young people that are affected by the struggle they were facing,” he said.
Speaking on the victory of UPND, Kalimbwe said the new ruling party vows to give back to the masses.
“We are willing to ensure that we fulfil the promise, and we are never going to allow thieves and hijackers to take control of our country,” he added.
Having grown up in Ndola and been the Unam SRC president in 2017 at the age of 21, Kalimbwe is no stranger to politics.
He was appointed as president of the African Union youth simulation forum, a youth-organised advocate programme of the continental body.
During his years in Namibia, Kalimbwe has also been at the helm of advocacy against tuition fees for underprivileged students.
He maintains his biggest leadership role started during his time at Unam.
“Being a student at Unam exposed me to many leadership roles and it was a good journey. But, you know, we had challenges and we had to fight with people. But in the end, I took a great appreciation from that because it shaped me and taught me how to be tough in difficult situations,” said the youth leader who studied political science.
Kalimbwe joined mainstream politics after joining UPND in 2012.
“I have been in politics for many years and I strongly believe that it is important that we discuss and engage and provide leadership, particularly to the myriad of issues that our people face,” he said.
Kalimbwe noted the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement inspired his political activities.
He said the political movement’s fight for land in the country has driven most of his activism.
“Job Amupanda (AR leader) was my lecturer at Unam and he has inspired me a lot to fight for what I believe in. AR ensured that young people could have access to land, and they can feel a sense of entitlement and have ownership,” said the AR sympathiser.
Meanwhile, Namibia’s main opposition leader, McHenry Venaani, yesterday congratulated Hichilema on his victory.
“We are certain that Hichilema’s election will consolidate democracy in the subregion of Southern Africa and the continent, wholly. This victory promises to be a sterling testament to the winds of change that are sweeping across Africa. Additionally, the rural support, coupled with the youth support that the UPND garnered during the just ended elections is worth emulating,” he said.