In Zambi,a as the scheduled treason trial of the Opposition leader Hichilema goes underway, the visit of South African Opposition leader Mmusi Maimane has caused lot of headache for the Patriotic Front and their President Edgar Lungu, certainly President Lungu is following tricks of others totalitarian leaders, like President Museveni. Who also has put key opposition figures on treason trials, but has not had the issue of opposition leaders from abroad visiting to argument for their release. Therefore, Lungu got pressure from South Africa and by that means expelled the DA leader. As of today the supposed visit and treason trial was about happen. The problematic visit of Maimane has clearly created a storm the Zambian regime didn’t plan. Take a look!
How Zambia Authorities perceive the expulsion:
“THE Zambia High Commission to South Africa has informed the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) that Opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane was turned away from Zambia as his presence was going to undermine the sanctity, integrity and independence of the Judiciary. During the meeting between DIRCO officials and His Excellency Mr. Emmanuel Mwamba, Zambia stated that the matters regarding Mr. Hichilema were in court and it was imperative that the due process of the law was respected without undue pressure or interference. Government was concerned with Mr. Maimane’s and the DA’s media statements prior to his visit to Zambia that stated that his party would pressure the Courts of the Law to release Zambia’s opposition leader, Mr. Hakainde Hichilema who is currently undergoing a treason trial. Mr. Maimane alleged that Mr. Hichilema was facing trumped up charges and therefore he would mobilize fellow regional opposition sister parties and leaders to pressure the Zambian courts to release Mr. Hichilema. The Zambian High Commission had earlier advised Mr. Maimane to reschedule his visit until this and other concerns were resolved but clearly turned down such an advise” (Mwebantu, 26.05.2017).
As explained by Open Zambia:
“LUSAKA Magistrate David Simusamba was today at 12:00 hours expected to rule on whether the treason case involving United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema (HH) and 5 other people should be referred to the High Court as per committal certificate issued by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to refer the treason case to the High Court” (Open Zambia, 26.05.2017).
Patriotic Front statement on Maimane:
“We wish to place on record that UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema is not a political prisoner but a criminal suspect. Zambia has no political detainees and that will never happen under the Patriotic Front Government of His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu. Hichilema is a criminal suspect and not a political detainee. This is what is before the Courts. It is therefore unfortunate that South Africa’s “Nazi Party” Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane and his sponsors intend to make a political issue out of a criminal case. We shall not be lectured to by architects and beneficiaries of apartheid like Democratic Alliance. Zambia fought apartheid and even at this stage, we shall not relent in dealing with its agents like DA. Zambia is a sovereign country, with sovereign laws which must be respected by all. It is not a playground for every tom and dick, including agents of capital such as Maimane” (…) “We wish to place on record once more that if blocking a Presidential motorcade is political in South Africa, it is criminal in Zambia. Further we wish to say that it does not matter whether Zambians laws on treason are laughable to others, once someone crosses the line, they are triggered, unfortunately. If it is politics to just walk into a South Africa as an alien, it is law in Zambia that everyone is screened at the port of entry and entry can be denied without explanation” (…) “We have no apologies to make when Maimane is denied entry into Zambia. It was inevitable and he was correctly advised by the Zambian High Commission in South Africa. It must be said to Maimane that Zambia is a sovereign state and he has no right to enter Zambia as he ignorantly alleged in his interview. Entering a foreign state as an alien is the preserve of that Country’s immigration department and we think this is simple civics which a political front should grasp easily. Immigration at ports of entry do not exist for decorative purposes. They are meant to screen and send back or arrest characters with questionable agendas like Maimane” (Sunday Chanda Media Director, Patriotic Front, 26.05.2017).
DA’s own statement on the matter:
“The Zambian government clearly feels threatened by Mr Hichilema and his party, the UPND, who have been working tirelessly in their attempts to stop the decay of democracy in Zambia. As the sister party of the Democratic Alliance (DA), they too are committed to the advancement of vibrant, competitive, multiparty democracy, the rule of law and the entrenchment of human rights and free speech across Africa. Mr Hichilema is also a founding member of the Southern African Partnership for Democratic Change (SAPDC), a body of opposition parties from across Southern Africa who are committed to securing democracy across the region, and which I am the current Chairman of. It is for these reasons I decided to attend the trial of Mr Hichilema, in order to show solidarity with him and with the project of building and deepening democracy that we are engaged in across the continent. In respecting the Zambian government’s wishes, I honoured their call to refrain from visiting Mr Hichilema in prison, as the government claims there exists a court order preventing such visitation by members of the public. It should be noted that the Lungu administration even blocked Zambia’s founding father, President Kenneth Kaunda, from visiting Mr Hichilema in prison. It is a truly tragic collapse of a once stable democracy” (Democratic Alliance, 26.05.2017).
Therefore, the visit of solidarity were cut short, some say as short as an hour on the Zambian soil as the Opposition leader was not allowed to enter the Republic of Zambia. The certainty of the pressure arising of his presence must clearly been too profound for the judges and the authorities. Since they are clearly not powerful or seeing the strength of having foreigners questioning their trials and their justice system. I am sure the Zambian ruling regime and party would have wish the South African Opposition leader never planned his visit. Since they clearly has no problems with pinning Hichilema.
Certainly, people confess that South Africa has enough problems with the toll of a Zuma Administration, deep in a crisis of democratic deficit at this very moment. Still, the DA leader is obliged to visit and support fellow opposition leader. It shouldn’t be seen as vicious attempt or even trying to discredit the Zambian regime. That they have clearly been able to do on their own. As their words expressed through own party channels are vicious and blatant attempt of disrespecting the DA and Maimane. Seems like the Patriotic Front cannot get onlookers into their cases and have questions asked over their courts. If so, are they so democratic and right that the ruling regime of Zambia, cannot handle one-man travel into their country to be part of one trial?
That is how it will be perceived! That Maimane does to prove a point – sure, like no one else are trying to get political capital out of this. The only one losing right now is the Patriotic Front and their President Lungu. Who looks more like fools, than clever and sovereign? Not because they are not allowed to stop people from entering their borders and closing their gates. It is because they are already in an epic battle with forces beyond their shores. As the world is looking how they will act towards Hichilema.
Zambia has played the deck wrong and the cards are really stacking against them, as the political prisoner and opposition leader are under threat. That by the fear of losing control, as the Patriotic Front has to save their grace and attitude, as the ruling regime, clearly are losing their steps and cannot handle that a foreign leader question their courts. That is because their justice and their rule is overpowering. The Patriotic Front is ready by all means, expelling and trading shots. However, they do not win goodwill; neither does the current stalemate create possible positive leadership from the central government. Peace.