The Zambian Voice civil society organisation charged that Hichilema – leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND) – received funds from mining giant Anglo American and companies from South Africa for his campaign.
Chilufya Tayali, Zambian Voice’s executive director, warned of companies seeking favours from Hichilema should he win the 20 January election – a quid pro quo Tayali described as a “mortgaging” Zambia.
“We have been informed that the UPND campaign is being funded by foreign powers and international companies,” Tayali said.
“There is nothing that comes for free and what he is doing is as good as mortgaging the country without the knowledge of the citizens who vote for these people,” Tayali said.
The UPND has rejected the allegations, which party spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa dismissed as “baseless and therefore not worth responding to”.
But Mweetwa also suggested the allegations were politically partisan, and designed to influence the race to succeed acting president Guy Scott.
Scott, a member of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), took over when Zambian president Michael Sata died of an undisclosed ailment on 29 October.
Due to his Scottish parentage, however, Scott is not constitutionally eligible to run for Zambia’s presidency.
The “Scott camp” of the PF is backing Deputy Commerce Minister Miles Sampa in the presidential race, while another faction supports Defence Minister Edgar Lungu.
Although all parties have until 19 December to finalise which candidates will be contesting the election, the enduring division of Zambia’s two main parties has thus far bolstered the presidential bid of Hichilema.
“We know Tayali is a member of the PF, and (we’ll) let him concentrate on campaigning for his party and not talk about UPND,” Mweetwa said in response to the funding accusations.
Undaunted, Tayali challenged Hichilema to reveal any involvement or interests Anglo American and other foreign companies may have in his presidential run.
“We want Hichilema to disclose these funders and what is being promised in return to these people and companies. Some of these companies are in South Africa,” Tayali said.
“What financial interest does Hichilema have in regard to Anglo American?” he added.
However, Zambian laws do not require political parties to state the source of their campaign funding.