Edgar Lungu was inaugurated as Zambia’s president at the National Heroes Stadium in the capital, Lusaka, after winning an election last week that his main opponent called a “sham.”
Lungu, the 58-year-old candidate of the ruling Patriotic Front, took the oath of office Sunday after defeating Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the opposition United Party for National Development, by a 48.3 percent to 46.7 percent margin.
“I feel greatly humbled you have decided to make me your servant,” Lungu, wearing a blue suit, told a crowd of thousands in the stadium. Addressing the business community, he said, “Let me assure you, your investment is safe.”
Lungu’s biggest challenge is to turn around an economy that’s slowing because of a slump in the price of copper, which accounts for more than two-thirds of Zambia’s export earnings. He must also solve a standoff with the mining industry over a tax system introduced this month that may lead to 12,000 job losses this year alone, according to an industry lobby group.
Lungu will lead the southern African nation until regularly scheduled presidential elections are held in September next year.
The vote in Africa’s second-biggest copper producer was called after the death in October of President Michael Sata. It was hampered by heavy rains and mired in controversy after Hichilema accused officials of the Electoral Commission of Zambia of manipulating the results. The commission denied the allegation.
Observers from the 15-nation Southern African Development Community, or SADC, called the election “peaceful, transparent, credible, free, and fair.”
The weakening of populist factions within the Patriotic Front last year should allow Lungu to adopt “a more conciliatory stance” toward investor concerns, Barnaby Fletcher, an analyst with Control Risks in London, said in reply to e-mailed questions on Jan. 22. “There are reasons to believe that significant amendments will be made to the controversial new mining sector fiscal framework.”
Lungu rose from his position as deputy minister in the vice president’s office in 2011 to leading the defense and justice ministries in 2014. Sata also appointed him as the Patriotic Front’s secretary-general in August after a succession fight.
A lawyer who has worked for the state mining company and the local unit of Barclays Plc, Lungu was born in Ndola and went to school in the mining town of Kitwe. He studied at the University of Zambia and underwent military training, according to a profile by the Patriotic Front.
Lungu emerged as the ruling party’s presidential candidate in December after a public fight to succeed Sata saw him clash publicly with Acting President Guy Scott.
To contact the reporter on this story: Matthew Hill in Lusaka at [email protected]
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at [email protected] Karl Maier, Amy Teibel