Zambians awoke to a social media frenzy over their president going eight months without pay since his victory.
According to the ministry in charge of awarding presidential wages and allowances, Hakainde Hichilema has forgone wages in order to serve the public.
Hichilema responded to the claim by saying that a salary was not his motivation for entering public office, which he was elected to last August.
The salary issue is a non-issue because money was not our incentive for seeking public office, and not because the government was unable to pay,’ he told reporters as he arrived in Livingstone, Zambia’s southern metropolis, for a meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Hichilema, a 59-year-old economist and businessman with local and international ties, was elected president after serving in the opposition for 15 years, defeating President Edgar Lungu by more than a million votes.
His election came after he campaigned on promises to fix the economy by rooting out corruption and generating jobs for the populace, particularly youths.
He’s been a businessman since he was 26 and has earned vast riches, despite political opponents’ claims that he made his fortune from his involvement in the controversial privatization of state assets in the 1990s.
“It is just that I have not paid attention to that (presidential salary). My intention and motivation is to see how we can better the lives of the people,” he added.
Hichilema has lived in his private residence in New Kasama, a posh residential area of the capital Lusaka miles away from Nkwazi House, the official residence of a Zambian president on State House grounds, since his election.
In 2018, Lungu’s government changed the law on presidential emoluments and allowances, allowing the president to earn a monthly salary of K$40,653.25 (US$2,307) and monthly allowances of K$10,784.41 (US$612). There was no indication, however, that Hichilema had given up any other presidential perks.
Hichilema’s net worth is thought to be in the millions of dollars, and he has previously been claimed to have income from investments in local hotels and the cattle processing sector.
Prior to the election, he did not declare his assets publicly as the law did not compel candidates to do so.
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