LUSAKA – Congolese politician and businessman Moise Katumbi has urged the authorities of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to take inspiration from Zambia and hold independent, neutral and impartial elections.
And Katumbi supporters in villages along Pedicle Road in the border town of Mokambo say Hakainde Hichilema’s election victory over incumbent Edgar Lungu has given them faith that Katumbi can also win the upcoming 2023 Congolese elections.
In his congratulatory message to Hichilema, who won last Thursday’s election by an overwhelming margin, Katumbi wrote, “Congratulations to His Excellency Hichilema for his magnificent victory and to President Edgar Lungu for his fair play.”
He called for fair elections in his country, adding that he was inspired by the situation in Zambia.
“As in Zambia, the DRC needs proper elections organized by an independent, neutral and impartial Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). Our citizens deserve to freely choose their leaders,” Katumbi said.
His supporters, too, were now determined that Zambia would once again lead the way.
“Yes! We are determined. This time to see free and fair elections in our country. We also want the leaders to come from the election of the people and not from the other round,” said Congolese trader Cornelius Pax.
Katumbi’s 2018 campaign flags still fly high in trees in Kilata and surrounding villages in Mokambo, where his base of support has been cheered by Zambia’s election result.
“Naifwe imwe mwebena Zambia mwatupela (same for us, you Zambians have given us an example) that in fact the army and military tanks in the streets cannot stop the will of the people.
“The election of Mr. Hichilema is historic in that we as a neighboring country can learn something from the way watchdog institutions in Zambia pressure the authorities to respect the will of the people .
“In fact, we are also going to make sure that Moise gets through this,” added Gabriel Mulumba, a staunch Katumbi supporter in Mokambo.
Katumbi, who was a leading candidate to challenge then President Joseph Kabila, was barred by the Kabila government from running in the December 30, 2018 elections.
His party then joined the Lamuka coalition, which fielded a single candidate, Martin Fayulu, who narrowly lost to Felix Tshisekedi among election observers who included the powerful Catholic Church.
After Kabila’s defeat, Katumbi, the former governor of Katanga province who had once been barred from entering the country by the previous government, returned.
And he is seen by many as Tshisekedi’s main challenger in the upcoming general elections.
His popularity is credited with transforming the mineral-rich region of Katanga when he became governor in 2007.
Katumbi’s government is credited with bringing economic revitalization to the province by developing infrastructure, encouraging foreign investment through tax breaks and reduced government procedures, and fighting corruption.
Thanks to his efforts as governor, local taxes rose from $80 million in 2007 to more than $3 billion in 2014.
Annual sales increased from 100 million in 2007 to 1.5 billion in 2013.
According to reports in the Congo, the majority of the Congolese population supports him because Katumbi imposed a ban on the export of raw materials, including cobalt, when he took office as governor; compelled large mining companies either to build processing plants in the province or to pay a tax on the concentrate exported.
Under Katumbi, copper production increased from 8,000 tonnes in 2006 to over one million tonnes in 2014.
In addition to mining, he is also credited with focusing on expanding other sectors of the province’s economy, including service industries, energy and agriculture.
He offered farmers both free farmland and tax breaks to encourage food production.
Dependence on imported food fell to 68% between 2006 and 2011.
By 2014, the amount of locally grown food had tripled.
However, Katumbi resigned as governor in 2015 and founded the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy.
In his native village, Katumbi has built public infrastructure ranging from primary and secondary schools to universities and hospitals; and supports more than 12,000 school-aged children.
It also remunerates the doctors and tutors who work there to eradicate illiteracy in the villages.
His base of support has grown considerably across the country since his return from exile, and the Congolese people hope that he will be allowed to stand freely in the next elections.
- The Mast