Zambia’s new President Hakainde Hichilema has said in his inauguration speech that his government will ensure that citizens can have three decent meals a day.
“No Zambian should go to bed hungry,” Hakainde Hichilema told a packed stadium in the capital, Lusaka.
He also said his government would focus on reviving the economy and creating jobs for the unemployed youth.
Mr Hichilema beat incumbent Edgar Lungu in a landslide victory 12 days ago.
It was the sixth time the former businessman had run for president.
The 59-year-old’s victory has raised the hopes of his former opposition counterparts in other African states that they too can overcome state repression and one day rise to power.
In his speech, Mr Hichilema thanked his predecessor for facilitating a smooth transition to his administration, but added that this was “not a transfer of power but a transfer of leadership,” saying power resides in Zambians.
This was the third time there had been a peaceful and democratic transfer of the presidency from the candidate of one party to another. This was something that was of great credit to Zambia, Mr Hichilema said.
“Democracy is the way to go – for Zambia, the people of Africa and the world,” he said.
‘Zero tolerance to corruption’
He added that the country was facing a lot of challenges but his government would work to revive the economy, which he said had been “overwhelmed by debt servicing, emoluments and consumption” leaving little room for investment for growth.
“We will pay special attention to lowering the fiscal deficit, reducing public debt and restoring social and market confidence,” he said.
“To the jobless youths, a new dawn is here where you will be skilled and find opportunity to work or do business in an economy that we will revive,” he said.
Mr Hichilema said that there would be “zero tolerance for corruption”, vowing to fight “the scourge” professionally and not be vindictive.
He added that his government would work to deal with the high cost of living to ensure food is available and affordable.
Hinting at the mistreatment meted against him by the outgoing president, he said “it was a new dawn”, adding “time has come for all Zambians to be truly free”.
He said the media should work freely without fear, and that his cabinet would be inclusive because he believes “diversity is a strength”.
Afterwards, President Hichilema released hundreds of balloons into the sky over Heroes Stadium – a change from last inauguration when doves were used and proved problematic when they refused to fly off.