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Zambian President Hichilema inherits ’empty treasury’

Zambian President Hichilema inherits 'empty treasury'
Hakainde Hichilema has failed in five previous attempts to become president

Zambian President Hichilema inherits ’empty treasury’

Zambia’s new president told the BBC he inherited an “empty” treasury, while “horrible” sums were stolen.

“People are always trying to make last minute movements of funds, which are not allowed, which are not theirs,” said President Hakainde Hichilema.

He beat his rival Edgar Lungu in the presidential elections last month.

Mr. Hichilema has not appointed any official. Mr. Lungu has previously denied any wrongdoing.

The BBC has contacted his party for comment.

Mr. Lungu had ruled the copper-rich nation since 2015. He was widely praised for the smooth transition of power to Mr. Hichilema, who won the presidency after five failed attempts.

Total “undisclosed” debt

Mr Hichilema won the election promising to fight corruption and end the financial and economic crisis which has seen Zambia’s debt swell.

In the BBC interview, the new president described the treasury as “literally empty”.

He added that “the hole is much bigger than expected” and that the debt situation had not been “fully disclosed” by the former government.

“There is unfortunately a lot of damage,” Hichilema said.

He added that his government would show “zero tolerance” to corruption and very soon get to the bottom of what he called the illicit movement of funds.

“I don’t want to anticipate things but what we choose [up] is horrible, ”the president said.

“You will feel like no one can do such a thing, but it is being done. People have done it. They are still trying to do things now.”

Supporters of the opposition Zambian presidential candidate United Party for National Development (UPND) Hakainde Hichilema celebrate his election to the Zambian presidency in Lusaka on August 16, 2021
Supporters of President Hichilema expect him to make sweeping changes

Mr. Hichilema has appointed economist and former advisor to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) Situmbeko Musokotwane as finance minister.

“Unless we do something about the budget, the budget will mainly be used to pay salaries and also to service the debt,” Musokotwane said as quoted by Reuters news agency shortly after his appointment.

Zambia owed foreign lenders around $ 12 billion (£ 8.6 billion), according to earlier reports.

It spends at least 30% of its income on interest payments, according to rating firm S&P Global.

Zambia missed an interest repayment last year, making it the first African country to default on a loan during the pandemic.

She is also having difficulty repaying other loans.

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