WHEN we look at the daunting task that lies ahead for President-elect Hakainde Hichilema, we even feel sorry for him because the expectations from Zambians are so high. We do understand and respect the fact that Zambians have elected a rare leader who understands wealth creation and wealth management, but political leadership is a calling which he will have to undertake with a lot of humility.

First of all, he has a huge task ahead of trying to correct the mess that the PF and President Edgar Lungu have left behind. The people of Zambia are saying “If you don’t deal with the mess and think that you can be cleverer than him, you will face a referendum also in five years’ time.” The people have voted for hope because they believe that this country can heal and recover, economically, politically and socially.

This is why they went en masse to demand for change through the ballot. We have never seen these kinds of numbers taking part in an election, and it has never happened in the history of this country that a winning president gets about one million more votes than the closest rival. This is a very strong message that Zambians were sending to the outgoing government.

We must state here without any hesitation that this vote is not a reflection of Mr Hichilema’s popularity. It is not a reflection of his campaign prowess. This was a referendum, it was the people Vs Mr Lungu and the Patriotic Front. It is in no way an indication of the people’s love for the UPND, no! The one million extra voters are not UPND members, but they were citizens who resolved to put an end to chaos brought about by the brutal regime.

We saw in this election that the people desperately wanted to show the Patriotic Front and its leadership where power truly lies. They wanted to show him who the real boss is. It was a statement to say “the same way we hired you, if you don’t perform and you become arrogant, we will remove you.”

There is no country in Africa that has achieved what we have. We don’t know of any other nation on this continent that has changed power to four different political parties since gaining independence. We must be proud of the fact that we have restored our pride as a country, as a democracy. Zambians have done it and done it peacefully through the ballot.

This is a lesson to President-elect Hakainde Hichilema. The people of Zambia are saying “we have not replaced Lungu with you so that you can continue with his style of governance, we are bringing you in to change things for the better. If you decide to ignore our plight, we will meet you at the next election.” Mr Hichilema must always remember that he is not the boss, the people of Zambia are the bosses. The pledge he made in his acceptance speech must not be a matter of rhetoric, it must be seen to be implemented. We want to see the country brought back to rule of law and unity.

The President-elect must also be reminded about the ugly reality that he will face as soon as he settles down in office. While he may mean well, while he may have a vision and the desire to run a government free of violence, corruption, victimization and intimidation, there will always be people appointed by the President who will have other interests. It is always the people who surround the President who make the Head of State fail to achieve his goals. A serious president must be prepared to lose close friends, he must be prepared to disappoint some family members who may want what cannot be legally given to them.

There is no honeymoon for Mr Hichilema. He takes over a country that is torn apart. The UPND government inherits a debt mountain that will take a genius to dismantle. They take over an empty Treasury; a Judiciary that can no longer define justice; a civil service that is filled with incompetent political cadres. There is no time for resting or honeymoon for President-elect Hichilema and his team. The clock is already ticking and they have so much on their list of deliverables.

Several months ago, we wrote an opinion in which we advised Zambians against being carried away by the “bally will fix it” campaign slogan. Fixing the economy takes more than making a speech or promise. The level of poverty that we have in Zambia, the unemployment rate and wanton corruption in state institutions, will take a long time to deal with. The people of Zambia must offer their support for this change to be truly meaningful.