President of Zambia Hakainde Hichilema.
- Socialist Party of Zambia leader Fred M’membe is facing espionage charges related to a Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation interview.
- The Law Association of Zambia accuses President Hakainde Hichilema of lawfare.
- The government is accused of interfering in the opposition Patriotic Front’s internal fights.
Democratic space in Zambia is shrinking, with increased cases of persecution of political rivals by President Hakainde Hichilema, according to the Law Association of Zambia (LAZ).
This is against the backdrop of the arrest on espionage charges of the opposition leader of the Socialist Party of Zambia, Fred M’membe, a former journalist.
In a series of posts on X, on his way to the police station, M’membe said he was arrested because of an interview he granted the state-controlled media in Zimbabwe in relation to the August 2023 elections in that country.
In his recorded statement to the police upon his arrest, M’membe said:
Such a charge can only be a product of class ignorance and the reactionary mind of a puppet of imperialism. What was espionage about that interview?
LAZ said that, because of its constitutional mandate, it could not be silent when opposition leaders were being victimised in the country.
“We find the increased incidents of arrests effected on leaders of the opposition parties most unfortunate and counter-productive for the nation. While leaders of opposition parties, like all other citizens, must be held accountable when they breach the law, in line with the rule of law, arrests that specifically target opposition leaders critical of the government are an affront to the freedom of speech these citizens enjoy under the Constitution,” the lawyers said.
The lawyers argued that the arrests of politicians in most cases do not amount to credible charges, nor do they have to end up having their day in court.
Thank you all for your support.
I have been released from Westwood Police Station on bond. Mr @HHichilema should know that he cannot intimidate me. I’m beyond intimidation. Hichilema should arrest the high prices of fuel, food & the depreciation of the kwacha not opposition pic.twitter.com/5hpt2f7GWr
— Fred M’membe (@DrFredMmembe) November 16, 2023
Instead, the lawyers said, the arrests are “an attempt to cower them into silence, something which is retrogressive in a democratic dispensation.”
Zambia has had seven presidents since its independence from Britain in 1964.
President Levy Mwanawasa died in office in 2008, and Michael Sata died in office in 2014. Guy Scott acted for only 89 days in 2014 before the elections that brought in Edgar Lungu.
In southern Africa, Zambia ranks as the country with the most changes of government since independence.
Much of it is owed to strong institutions.
However, LAZ believed that continued repression of the opposition could derail this record.
Lungu announced his return to politics early this month, and his government pension and benefits were withdrawn as provided by law.
Lungu, a one-time leader of the Patriotic Front (PF), intends to run for office under the same party. However, there are internal fissures within the PF, and the state is accused of meddling in it.
“Unfortunately, the conduct of various state institutions clearly demonstrates a narrative that the state is interested in legitimising the actions of one faction of the PF over the other, even when the matter is yet to be finally determined by the courts of law,” LAZ said.
Lungu leads a faction that is opposed to that of Miles Sampa for control of the PF.
The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.
Source link : https://www.news24.com/news24/africa/news/hichilema-called-out-for-political-repression-in-zambia-20231116
Publish date : 2023-11-16 17:57:49