Zambian president goes eight months without pay
ZAMBIA woke up to a social media frenzy on Monday to learn that its president had gone the entire eight months since his election without a paycheck.
The ministry responsible for paying presidential salaries and allowances had claimed that Hakainde Hichilema had waived salaries “in his interest to serve the public”.
In response, Hichilema, who was elected president last August, said a salary was not his motivation for running for public office.
“The issue of salary is not a problem because money was not our motivation to seek public office and not that the government was unwilling to pay,” he told reporters at his arrival in the city of Livingstone, in the south of the country, where he is expected. receive Rwandan President Paul Kagame on a state visit.
“I just didn’t pay attention to it [presidential salary]. My intention and motivation is to see how we can improve people’s lives,” he said.
Hichilema (59), an economist and businessman with local and international ties, became president after 15 years in opposition, beating then-incumbent Edgar Lungu by more than a million votes.
His election followed campaign promises to heal a struggling economy by stamping out corruption and creating jobs for the masses, especially young people.
But his wealth came under scrutiny in the election as political opponents claimed he made his fortune by joining the controversial privatization of state assets in the 1990s.
Sean Tembo, leader of the national Patriots for Economic Progress party and one of Hichilema’s fierce critics, said it was normal for Hichilema to forfeit his salary because “he failed to deliver on his campaign promises”. .
Hichilema’s decision is still seen by some as a humane gesture in difficult economic times for the country, but it is not an entirely new idea in Zambia.
In 2016, his predecessor Lungu took a 50% pay cut and three years later another between 15 and 20% to support government austerity measures introduced to meet the country’s debt repayment obligations.
He extended the 2019 decision to his highly paid cabinet members, but Hichilema’s United National Development Party later called the decision misleading.
In 2018, the Lungu government amended the legislation on presidential emoluments and allowances, which allowed the president to start earning 40,653.25 kwacha (33,600 Namibian dollars) in monthly salary and 10,784.41 kwacha (8 N$900) in monthly allowances.
Since his election, Hichilema has also resided at his private residence in New Kasama, an affluent residential area of the capital, Lusaka, miles from Nkwazi House – the official residence of the Zambian president located within the grounds of the state house.
However, there was no indication that Hichilema had given up other presidential benefits.
Hichilema’s net worth is estimated at several million dollars and it has previously been reported that he holds shares in local hotels and in the livestock processing industry.
He did not publicly declare his holdings before the August election, as the law does not require candidates to do so.
Lungu had threatened Hichilema with arrest if re-elected, saying the then opposition leader had a lot to explain about how he got rich, but the privatization process left the majority destitute.
Other African leaders who have already taken pay cuts in the past two years include South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Ghana’s Nana Akufo-Addo, Malawi’s Lazarus Chakwera and Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta. – Al Jazeera