-President Hichilema (left) receives the Instruments of Power from Mr. Lungu during his inauguration ceremony at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.
By JOWIT SALUSEKI –
As the country bids farewell to 2021, it’s time to take a look at the highlights that have made the headlines.
With COVID -19 now in its second year, on January 8, Zambia reported 1,029 new COVID-19 infections and 18 deaths in one of the daily peaks and highest deaths since the start of the pandemic.
On February 12, then-President Edgar Lungu addressed the fifth session of the 12th National Assembly on the progress made in the application of values and principles in the country.
On February 28, Andrew Sardanis, owner of the Chaminuka Nature and Wildlife Reserve, died at the age of 89.
Mr Sardanis who was born and educated in Cyprus, worked as a journalist and moved to Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in 1950.
He participated in the independence liberation movement of Zambia and played a major role in the country’s first administration.
After a commercial career that took him to almost every country in sub-Saharan Africa, Mr. Sardanis then resigned to look after the Chaminuka nature and wildlife reserve.
On March 25, Zambia failed to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations (AfCON) for the third time in a row, after playing a 3-way draw against defending champions – Algeria – in Lusaka Heroes Stadium.
On April 14, 2021, then Minister of Health Jonas Chanda officially launched the COVID-19 vaccination at the University Hospital (UTH) in Lusaka.
This was after Zambia received the first shipment of 228,000 doses of vaccine from the COVAX facility, a global initiative representing a partnership between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Vaccine Alliance and vaccination (GAVI).
Others were the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working on the equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.
The voluntary COVID-19 vaccination exercise in the country initially targeted a total of 8.4 million people over the age of 18.
Other cooperation partners have since joined us following the relaunch of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign by President Hakainde Hichilema in Lusaka.
It was after his election to the presidency.
On June 17, the founding president of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, passed away at the age of 97.
He was buried on July 7 in Lusaka at Embassy Park.
On August 30, the Ministry of Higher Education along with the National Science and Technology of Zambia hosted a webinar on Dr Kaunda’s contribution to higher education, science and technology in Zambia and South Africa .
The webinar served to commemorate and contextualize President Kaunda’s contribution to higher education, science and technology in both countries.
On August 12, Zambians went to the polls to vote in the general election.
The political landscape was dominated by two parties, the then ruling party, the Patriotic Front (PF), led by Edgar Lungu, and the United Party for National Development (UPND), led by Hakainde Hichilema, in the opposition.
After a tense election, Mr. Hichilema of the UPND emerged victorious in the presidential election
with a million votes more than the incumbent.
The 2021 general election was held during a time of heightened political tension, economic challenges and arguably shrinking democratic space.
The political scene during the election period was characterized by pockets of violence, disinformation and hate speech, especially from political party leaders and their supporters of the PF and the UPND.
Besides the political environment and the shrinking democratic space, economic difficulties played an important role in the UPND’s electoral victory.
In recent years, Zambia has experienced a sharp economic decline due to price fluctuations, the impact of climate change, high external debt and unsustainable fiscal policies, high inflation and poor management of public resources.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further worsened the economic situation, plunging the country’s economy into recession.
The UPND pledge was based on economic restructuring to improve the country’s economic outlook and sustainably manage debt levels, create jobs and reduce commodity prices.
The atmosphere on election day was generally peaceful and calm, although parts of the country recorded incidents of violence.
Out of an estimated 18 million Zambians, the total number of registered voters was 7,023,499 – of which 70.61 percent went to the polls.
This is arguably the highest participation rate in recent years.
Although no official record has been drawn up, the country has experienced an internet shutdown
on polling day, some sections of society claiming that this decision was orchestrated by the government to restrict and limit the information and dissemination of election results.
The pre-election activities were also characterized by a shrinking of democratic space, the closure of press houses, the censorship of public opinion, the lack of transparency and the restriction of opposition political parties to mobilize and join forces. gather, which was in part attributed to restrictions related to COVID-19.
On September 28, Simon Zukas, one of Zambia’s independence heroes and most admired personalities, passed away at the age of 96.
Mr. Zukas was one of the supporters of the reintroduction of the multiparty system who held several positions in the MMD government.
On October 21, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) announced that the joint investigation team of ACC, Zambia Police, Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) and Financial Intelligence Center (FIC) had concluded inquiries concerning Margaret Chisela Musonda.
Ms Musonda, a journalist, was found in possession of K65,333,046 and US $ 57,900, found in a house in New Kasama in Lusaka.
She was later to confiscate property and money from the state after an amnesty.
On October 28, former Zambian President Micheal Sata was commemorated at a memorial service in Lusaka.
The event was almost overshadowed by a placard bearing supporters of incendiary politician Chishimba Kambwili showing their solidarity for him to succeed Mr. Lungu as PF chairman.
On December 16, the Zambian authorities increased the price of fuel after removing subsidies on petroleum products to resort to a price reflecting the costs of the product.
The price of gasoline at the pump was increased to K21.16 per liter from K17.62 per liter, while the price of diesel increased from K15.59 per liter to K20.15 per liter.
This was according to a statement released by the Energy Regulatory Board (ERB).
The rationale was that the old prices at the pump had been kept artificially low since December 2019 despite movements in international oil prices and the depreciation of the local currency, the Kwacha.
Earlier in December, Finance Minister Situmbeko Musokotwane said an International Monetary Fund (IMF) program to try to bring the country’s mountain of global debt under control would include removing unsustainable energy subsidies.
That same month, the IMF and Zambia reached a staff-level agreement on a three-year, $ 1.4 billion extended credit facility.
On December 20, Health Minister Sylvia Masebo announced that the country had entered the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic following an upsurge in a number of positive cases.
These events and many more made headlines in 2021.