Sunday 18 September 2022

Travelogue: President Hichilema Strikes Deals For Zambia in Eswatini

By Paul Shalala in Manzini, Swaziland

It is one of the smallest countries in Africa, the last absolute monarch on the continent.

The Kingdom of Eswatini, formerly named Swaziland is a landlocked country in Southern Africa.

As Chief Marketing Officer of Zambia, President Hakainde Hichikema was in Eswatini in June this year to make business.

He was in the Kingdom of Eswatini for the first time as Head of State at the invitation of King Mswati III.

From June 3 to 5, 2022 I covered President Hichilema’s state visit to the mountainous kingdom.

Commerce, Trade and Industry Minister Chipoka Mulenga and Tourism Minister Rodney Sikunda accompanied the President.

Manzini, the industrial hub of Eswatini was the perfect city for the President’s business trip.

At the Royal Pavilion of the King Mswati III International Airport, President Hichilema was welcomed by Eswatini Prime Minister Cleopas Dlamini.

He later inspected a Guard Honor mounted by the Eswatini Defence Forces.

In this deeply conservative country, President Hichikema also enjoyed some cultural performances.

Dancers clad in half naked attires performed different dances much to the amusement of the Zambian delegation.

Later, the President was driven to Lozitha Palace, the official residence for King Mswati III.

Here, he met the monarch who had been waiting for him.

President Hichilema inspected another Guard of Honor.

Later, the two Heads of State went into private talks which lasted hours.

After the talks, they exchanged presents.

President Hichilema used the occasion to inform his host that Zambia is interested in the coal which the Kingdom produces in large quantities.

“I hear your country produces a lot of coal. We need it, we have just signed a deal with the Democratic Republic of Congo to produce electric vehicles. So we need your coal,” said President Hichilema.

In the evening, President Hichilema and King Mswati III held a private welcome dinner.

The following morning, President Hichikema was driven east of the city of Manzini where he toured the Sidvokodvo Dairy Farm which is one of the largest dairy producers in the kingdom.

“We have made many investments and this farm is just one of them, “ said Old Mutual Chief Executive Officer Muzi Bell.

President Hichilema was surprised to learn that Eswatini has a deficit in dairy produce.

He called on exchange visits and collaboration between the two countries.

“Am a big dairy producer myself and I want to encourage the Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries to work with you and see how you can collaborate,” he added.

The Sidvokodvo Dairy Farm milks its dairy cattle twice a day and produces 153,000 liters of milk a month.

“Milking is done by our highly mechanized milking system which is handled by highly trained workers. These dairy cows you see here, produce milk for a minimum of 10 years,” said Eswatini Dairy Herd Manager Oscar Ndzimande.

At the farm, President Hichilema was shown how the company takes care of heifers.

The President appreciated the technology and effort the country is making in making livestock production a viable business.

Eswatini Dairy is a collaboration between the Eswatini Public Service Pension Fund, Old Mutual and the Eswatini

On the second day of the state visit, President Hichikema celebrated his 60th  birthday.

The Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) Church in Eswatini held a special service for the Head of State who is also an ordained Elder and an invested Master Guide in Zambia.

The service was held at the Royal Villas in Manzini.

President HICHILEMA also spoke of how God had guided and protected him as he fought to lead the country.

Three Cabinet Ministers and a Member of Parliament from Eswatini attended the service.

In the afternoon, the President went to the Ludzidzini Royal Residence where he visited the Eswatini Queen Mother Indlovukazi Queen Ntombi Tfwala.

The Queen Mother is a powerful figure in the Kingdom and her posters are hung in all public places alongside that of her son King Mswati III.

President Hichilema was received like a son, he was given various presents by the Queen Mother.

“I give you these crafts made by hand by our women here in Eswatini,” she said.

President Hichilema too gave the Queen Mother a huge Zambian painting depicting the African Amarula tree.

Later that evening, President Hichilema went back to the Zolitha Palace for the highlight of his state visit.

In the presence of King Mswati and himself, Zambia signed two Memoranda of Understanding with Eswatini.

The MoUs in Tourism and Diplomacy were signed by Zambia’s Tourism Minister Rodney Sikumba and the Foreign Affairs Minister of Eswatini Thulisile Dladla.

The MoUs are meant to establish a framework to the advancement of institutional and business cooperation between Zambia and the Kingdom of Eswatini in the tourism sector.

The cooperation between the two countries in the field of Tourism will include among others,

1. Mutual corporation

2. Joint Tourism Marketing

3. Exchange of staff and information

4. Twinning of products

5. Promotion of cultural tourism

6. Tourism training

The two countries will now create a bilateral technical committee on tourism within the Joint Permanent Commission (JPC) to ensure implementation of this MoU.

 That same evening, King Mswati III hosted a state banquet for President Hichilema at the Lozitha Palace.

The banquet was spiced up with birthday festivities.

King MSWATI delivered a birthday cake to his visitor.

Like a birthday boy, President Hichilema did nit waste time in blowing the candles, much to the excitement of hundreds of guests who attended the state banquet.

King Mswati used the occasion to wish President Hichilema a happy birthday.

“On behalf of the people of Eswatini, I wish you Your Excellency a Happy Birthday,” said the monarch as he ked his guests into singing birthday songs.

In his speech that night, the Eswatinin monarch also appreciated the role Zambian expatriates are making in the Kingdom.

“We have many Zambians who are doing a good job in this country. We have them in the education sector, in construction and other sectors. Some are even our in-laws, they have married here,” said King Mswati III.

And in his speech, President Hichilema thanked the Eswatini Monarch for having played a positive role in Zambia’s transition after the general elections last year.

“Many Ma-Swati may not know that His Majesty mediated after our elections last year. As a father, he spoke to me and also spoke to my predecessor. He ensured that there was peace during the transition and for that, we the Zambians are very grateful,” said President Hichilema.

The head of state also called on African countries to increase trade amongst themselves.

“We do not need to import beef products from Denmark when we have them readily available in our region. Let African countries trade more amongst themselves. This will ensure we maintain jobs and reduce poverty,” he added.

During the state banquet, seven of the eleven wives of King Mswati III were present.

The night was spiced up with traditional performances.

On the final day, President Hichilema was driven to the Royal Pavillion of the King Mswati III International Airport for departure.

King Mswati escorted him

As per diplomatic etiquette, he inspected a Guard of Honor.

Later, he spent over 10 minutes, appreciating the cultural performances at the airport.

Because of this state visit, Eswatini Air, the national flag carrier announced that it will soon have direct flights into Zambia.

This is expected to raise the tourist arrivals from either countries.

Trade in a number of commodities will now be done directly between the two countries.

President Hichilema flew out of Manzini knowing very well that the trip was a success as he opened up new trade routes for Zambian goods.

During this trip, he was able to strengthen the relations between the two countries.

Pictures courtesy of State House