Tag Archives: Hakainde Hichilema

Zambia – opposition leader transferred to Lusaka prison

Reuters

LUSAKA Zambian prison authorities on Wednesday transferred an opposition leader who is charged with treason from a maximum security facility back to one in the capital following a court order by a magistrate.

United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema, who is facing treason charges for impeding a motorcade for President Edgar Lungu, had been moved from a prison in Lusaka to the maximum security facility outside the capital on June 9.

Magistrate Ireen Wishimanga said the opposition leader and five others should be moved to a prison near the court while she hears a separate case in which Hichilema wants a minister to be charged with contempt of court for allegedly saying he was in prison because he refused to recognise Lungu as president.

“..the order given by this court… (should) be adhered to until such time when a new one is issued or there will be consequences,” Wishimanga said before a packed court.

Prison warders drove Hichilema and his co-accused to Lusaka Central Prison immediately after the court case.

Hichilema was arrested in April when police raided his home and charged him with trying to overthrow the government, a case which has stoked political tensions in what is regarded as one of Africa’s more stable and functional democracies following a bruising election last year.

(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Ed Stoddard and Toby Chopra)

Zambia slides towards authoritarianism as IMF props up government

The Conversation

There are fears that Zambia is slipping into authoritarian rule under President Edgar Lungu. UN Women/Flickr

The speaker of the Zambian National Assembly, Patrick Matibini, has suspended 48 opposition legislators for 30 days as a punishment for unauthorised absence from the parliament. Their offence? To have been missing for President Edgar Lungu’s state of the nation address in March.

The suspension of the MPs does not come as a great surprise. Hardliners from the ruling Patriotic Front have been pushing for something along these lines for some time. The ruling party was quick to try and disassociate itself from the Speaker’s actions. But, as Zambian commentators have pointed out, the action fits into a broader web of measures designed to intimidate those who question the president’s authority.

The most significant was the arrest of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, who remains in jail on trumped up treason charges.

While the latest development in Zambia’s growing political crisis doesn’t come as a shock, it will disappoint those who were hoping that Lungu would be persuaded to moderate his position. Instead, it appears that the International Monetary Fund’s decision to go ahead with a bail out package despite the government’s democratic failings has emboldened the president to pursue an authoritarian strategy.

As a result, a swift resolution to the current political standoff seems unlikely.

Roots of the crisis

For some time Zambia was considered to be one of the more competitive democracies in Africa. But a period of backsliding under Lungu has raised concerns that the country’s inclusive political culture is under threat. The current impasse stems from the controversial elections in 2016 when Lungu won a narrow victory that remains contested by the opposition United Party for National Development.

Hichilema, the leader of the United Party for National Development, has stated that his party will not recognise the legitimacy of Lungu’s victory until its electoral petition against the results is heard in court. The initial petition was rejected by the Constitutional Court. But its decision was made in a way that had all the hallmarks of a whitewash. The UPND subsequently appealed to the High Court. Hichilema’s decision to make his party’s recognition of the president conditional on the petition being heard was designed both as an act of defiance, and as a means to prevent the government from simply sweeping electoral complaints under the carpet.

Until the court case is resolved, the opposition is committed to publicly challenging the president’s mandate by doing things like boycotting his addresses to parliament. In response, members of the ruling party have accused the United Party for National Development of disrespect and failing to recognise the government’s authority. It is this that appears to lie behind Hichilema’s arrest on treason charges.

Punishing parliamentarians

The suspension of United Party for National Development legislators needs to be understood against this increasingly authoritarian backdrop. It is one of a number of steps taken by those aligned to the government that are clearly designed to intimidate people who don’t fall into line. Other strategies include public condemnation of the government’s critics and proposals to break-up the influential Law Society of Zambia.

Efforts by the president’s spokesman to disassociate the regime from the suspensions have been unpersuasive. The official line of the ruling party is that the speaker of parliament is an independent figure and that he made the decision on the basis of the official rules. It’s true that the speaker and the parliamentary committee on privileges, absences and support services have the right to reprimand legislators for being absent without permission.

Nonetheless the argument is disingenuous for two reasons. The speaker is known to be close to the ruling party, a fact that prompted Hichilema to call for his resignation earlier this year. And the committee’s decisions are clearly driven by the Patriotic Front because it has more members from it than any other party.

The claim that the suspension was not government-led lacks credibility. This is clear from the fact that Patriotic Front MPS have been the most vocal in calling for action to be taken against boycotting United Party for National Development MPs.

IMF lifeline for Lungu

There are different perspectives on the crisis in Zambia. Some people invoke the country’ history of more open government to argue that Lungu will moderate his position once the government feels that the opposition has been placed on the back foot. Others identify a worrying authoritarian trajectory that began under the presidency of the late Michael Sata. They conclude that things are likely to get worse before they get better.

One of the factors that opposition leaders hoped might persuade President Lungu to release Hichilema and move discussions back from the police cell to the negotiating chamber was the government’s desperate need for an economic bail out. Following a period of bad luck and bad governance, Zambia faces a debt crisis. Without the assistance of international partners, the government is likely to go bankrupt. This would increase public dissatisfaction with the Patriotic Front and undermine Lungu’s hopes of securing a third term.

But the willingness of the IMF to move towards the completion of a $1.2 billion rescue package suggests that authoritarian backsliding is no barrier to international economic assistance. In turn, IMF support appears to have emboldened the government to continue its efforts to intimidate its opponents.

IMF officials, of course, will point out that they are not supposed to take political conditions into account and that their aim is to create a stronger economy that will benefit all Zambians. This may be true, but the reality is that by saving the Lungu government financially the IMF is also aiding it politically. Whatever its motivation, the agreement will be interpreted by many on the ground as tacit support for the Patriotic Front regime, strengthening Lungu’s increasingly authoritarian position.

Zambian opposition leader to face trial; moved to high security prison

ENCA

File: United Party for National Development leader Hakainde Hichilema has been in detention for two months. Photo: REUTERS/Rogan Ward/File Photo

LUSAKA – Zambia’s opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema will face a High Court trial for treason and remain in police custody, a magistrate ruled on Thursday.

Hichilema was arrested in April for allegedly failing to give way to President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade and has so far been held in detention for nearly two months.

In a show of support, Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane tried to visit Hichilema in Zambia last month but was barred from entering the country.

The leader of the United Party for National Development is accused of endangering Lungu’s life and treason charges followed.

“I am in court because of hatred. This has everything to do with hatred,” Hichilema told journalists inside the courtroom.

READ: Lungu vs Hichilema: Zambia’s presidential battle

His lawyers asked the court to throw out the treason charge, arguing it was baseless, but the magistrate referred the case to the High Court with the date for the hearing yet to be announced.

Treason suspects are not eligible for bail in Zambia and, if found guilty, Hichilema could face a possible death sentence.

Hichilema said he hoped the trial would start soon and criticised the police, accusing them of failing to properly investigate the case.

“We need a dedicated judge to deal with our matter expeditiously,” he said.

Zambia is considered one of the most stable countries in Africa and Hichilema’s arrest and detention has been widely criticised by human rights groups.

Hichilema made a fifth unsuccessful bid for the presidency last year. He refused to recognise Lungu as president and has challenged the narrow poll defeat in court.

AFP

 

Reuters

LUSAKA Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, who is facing treason charges for impeding a presidential motorcade, has been moved from a prison in Lusaka to a maximum security facility outside the capital, a prison source said on Friday.

Hichilema and five others who were moved with him are accused of trying to overthrow the government after a column of opposition vehicles failed to make way for President Edgar Lungu.

The case has stoked political tensions in what is regarded as one of Africa’s more stable and functional democracies following a bruising election last year.

“They arrived at Mukobeko this morning,” a source told Reuters, referring to a maximum security prison in Kabwe, about 150 km (90 miles) north of Lusaka.

Hichilema lawyer Jack Mwiimbu confirmed Hichilema had been moved but said he did not know where to.

“We are not privy to where they have been taken. They were taken to the City Airport and flown to an unknown destination,” he told Reuters.

The move went against a court order specifying Hichilema should be confined to Lusaka Central prison, he added.

Home Affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo could not be reached for comment.

Hichilema, leader of the United Party for National Development, was arrested in April when police raided his home and charged him with trying to overthrow the government.

An economist and businessman widely known by his “HH” initials, Hichilema was defeated in August by Lungu in an election he denounced as fraudulent. His attempts to mount a legal challenge have been unsuccessful.

(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Ed Stoddard and Ed Cropley)

 

Maimane says Zambia has reminded him what makes a dictatorship

BD Live

26 May 2017 – 12:25 Claudi Mailovich
Mmusi Maimane at the Zambian High Commission in Pretoria. Picture: CLAUDI MAILOVICH

Mmusi Maimane at the Zambian High Commission in Pretoria. Picture: CLAUDI MAILOVICH

DA leader Mmusi Maimane wants to go back to Zambia, from where he was deported on Thursday, to show his support for jailed opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema.

Maimane arrived at the Zambian High Commission in Pretoria on Friday morning to demand answers as to why he was thrown out of the country.

“I want to go back and stand side-by-side with them,” Maimane said.

He travelled to Lusaka on Thursday‚ to attend the trial of Hichilema, which was due to start on Friday. Hichilema, who narrowly lost to Lungu in August 2016 presidential election, was charged with treason after he allegedly refused to move his motorcade for Lungu’s.

Prior to Maimane’s arrival at the Zambian High Commission, groups of protesters — some supporting Zambian President Edgar Lungu and others opposed to him — maintained a presence in front of the building. Police tape kept the small groups apart.

As Maimane spoke, saying he stood with Hichilema, the pro-Lungu protesters booed in an attempt to drown out the DA leader.

Maimane expressed concern that the Zambian pro-Lungu protesters were free to protest in SA, but that Zambians were not free in their own country.

“When I went to Zambia I was reminded of what a dictatorship is,” Maimane said.

Maimane travelled with his private passport. He said he had wanted to support his friend.

Of the altercation on Thursday, Maimane said Zambian officials came onto the aircraft, a South African Airways flight, “manhandled us” and refused to allow them access to legal representation.

The DA leader said there were about 20 officials who stormed the aircraft, identified him and told him that he was denied entry into Zambia.

He said the altercation, in which his cellphone and iPad were taken off him, lasted about an hour.

“All I simply wanted was to arrive to stand side-by-side with a friend, a fellow comrade, somebody who stands with the rule of law in Zambia.”.

Maimane emphasised that the charge of treason that Hichilema is facing could result in capital punishment.

After a meeting at the High Commission, Maimane said he was still demanding the release of Hichilema, and that he wished to attend the next court appearance.

He said nobody could give him reasons so far as to who gave the instructions to bar him from the country. He said he has asked the South African authorities to write to the Zambian government seeking an explaination as to why he was denied entry into that country.

Zambia – court allows opposition leader to challenge treason prosecution

Reuters

By Chris Mfula | LUSAKA

LUSAKA A Zambian court on Friday allowed opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema to challenge the prosecution over moving his treason case to the high court for trial in a case that has stoked political tension months after contested elections.

Hichilema, an economist and businessman known as “HH”, was defeated by President Edgar Lungu in an election last August, which he described as fraudulent. His attempts to mount a legal challenge have so far been unsuccessful.

The United Party for National Development (UPND) leader was arrested in a police raid on his home in April and charged with trying to overthrow the government.

Hichilema’s lawyers however said the case should not proceed to the High Court because the officer who issued the trial papers had no authority to do so.

But Magistrate David Simusamba told a hearing in his court that Hichilema’s defence could seek a judicial review of the charges before the case goes to the High Court for trial.

Hichilema sat in court looking composed in a red shirt.

“I hold the view that this is a proper matter for judicial review,” Simusamba said, adding that the matter should go for trial if Hichilema’s lawyers fail to launch their legal challenge in the High Court within 14 days.

The magistrate adjourned the case to June 12.

Zambia was seen as one of Southern Africa’s most stable countries until relations soured between the government and opposition over the elections, which were marred by violence.

On Thursday, South African opposition leader Mmusi Maimane said Zambian immigration officials barred him from entering their country late on Thursday, stopping his visit to attend the case of the detained Hichilema.

Maimane held a rally on Friday in the South African capital Pretoria to demand that the case against Hichilema be dropped, saying the Zambian politician was facing trumped up charges.

Zambia’s High Commissioner to South Africa, Emmanuel Mwamba, said in a statement on Friday that Maimane was kept away to allow the due process of the law to take its course.

(Writing by by James Macharia)

Zambia – court upholds treason charges against Hichilema

Al Jazeera

Hichilema has been in custody since police raided his home on April 11 [Rogan Ward/Reuters]

A Zambian court refused a request to drop treason charges against Hakainde Hichilema, the main opposition leader, after he allegedly blocked the president’s motorcade earlier this month.

Wednesday’s ruling comes after Hichilema, the United Party for National Development (UPND) leader and a self-made businessman, was arrested in a police raid at his home earlier this month.

He is accused of endangering President Edgar Lungu’s life when Hichilema’s own convoy allegedly refused to give way to the presidential motorcade as both men travelled to a traditional event in Zambia’s western province.

Hichilema has been charged with trying to overthrow the government by unlawful means.

His lawyers had asked the court to throw out the treason charges, saying they were baseless.

But magistrate Greenwell Malumani said he did not have the power to dismiss the charges, which can only be handled by the High Court.

The case has stoked political tensions after the most recent contested elections.

Zambia was seen as one of southern Africa’s most stable countries until relations soured between the government and opposition in August, when President Lungu’s Patriotic Front (PF) party narrowly beat the UPND in elections marred by violence.

The opposition says the vote was rigged, but Hichilema has so far failed to successfully challenge the legality of the result.

The Non-Governmental Organizations Coordinating Council (NGOCC), an umbrella body of Zambian action groups, has condemned the charges against Hichilema.

“Arresting opposition leaders on trumped-up charges is a recipe to heighten tension in an already volatile economic and political environment,” its chairwoman Sara Longwe

Zambia – democratic victory or vote snatching?

Al Jazeera

In a country known for peaceful politics and national unity, there is a real danger of escalating conflict.

Supporters of Edgar Lungu celebrate after he narrowly won re-election on Monday [Reuters]
Supporters of Edgar Lungu celebrate after he narrowly won re-election on Monday [Reuters]

by

Vito Laterza is an anthropologist and political analyst focusing on politics, economy and society in sub-Saharan Africa.

Zambia’s incumbent President Edgar Lungu, leader of the Patriotic Front (PF), wasre-elected after a highly contested election.

The final results gave him a lead of around 100,000 votes over opponent Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND).

Zambians voted for the first time with a two-round system. Lungu won the presidency outright, gaining an absolute majority in the first round – he received 50.35 percent of the vote.

Hichilema immediately contested the outcome and said that Lungu stole the UPND candidate’s victory by rigging. Party officials announced that they will challenge the results, following the legal route of a petition to the Constitutional Court.

Not the first

Allegations of rigging are not new in the history of Zambia’s multi-party elections. The difference this time is that irregularities started well before election day.

The campaign was marred by unprecedented levels of political violence, leading to several people being killed and many injured.

Crowds of PF supporters attacked opposition followers and chased them away from urban neighbourhoods across the country. However, the UPND was not without blame. They mobilised their own crowds to retaliate against PF, but with fewer resources and smaller numbers.

To make things worse, the biggest independent newspaper, The Post, was shut down by the government at the end of June, drastically reducing the opportunities for opposition voices to be heard.

On August 11, the voting proceeded in a generally peaceful fashion, but in the following days the counting process saw numerous irregularities and major delays in the final announcement of results.

[The violence] is the result of neoliberal policies which reduced state support for basic services and handed the economy to foreign investors.

Incidents ranged from the arrest of a suspected ruling party hacker caught in the verification room of the national totalling centre where official results were finalised, to mysteriously disappearing ballots, and claims that official forms with the final figures from polling stations and constituencies had not been given promptly to opposition party agents.

In their preliminary findings, the European Union observers’ mission did not declarethe elections “free and fair” and embraced many of the opposition concerns.

It is hard to say how the Constitutional Court will rule on the announced UPND petition. The court can either accept the results, or nullify the election, in which case a new presidential contest would be held within 30 days.

Deepening crisis

If Lungu’s victory is confirmed, the implications for Zambia’s future would be far reaching. The PF crowds are not going to disappear.

Reports indicated that on August 16 morning, UPND followers’ homes were raided by ruling party supporters in Lusaka. On the same day, PF supporters also stormed the UPND secretariat and stole computers, documents and food supplies from the building.

The groups that execute PF politicians’ deeds are formed by disenfranchised unemployed young men.

Supporters of the ruling party celebrate the results of the presidential elections [AP]

They are the result of neoliberal policies which reduced state support for basic services and handed over the copper mines and other sectors of the economy to foreign investors (PDF).

They are only likely to increase in numbers, as Zambia goes through the worst economic crisisin more than 10 years.

Violence is the last sector to have been “privatised”. The police and the military have lost the monopoly over violence. Struggles in the political arena have evolved into physical confrontations between opposing crowds of supporters.

Many fear that Lungu and his associates will continue to further clamp down ondemocratic freedoms, to reinforce their grip on state power.

READ MORE: Zambia’s voices on the elections and their future hopes

Lungu’s campaign has benefited from external help. The ruling party developed close ties with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, and hired the services of Timor Consulting, an Israeli firm that helped political parties win elections in Sierra Leone, Mozambique and Botswana.

The PF leader has also built a strong base of followers in the wider society. Through his skilful manipulation of Christian messages, he gained the allegiance of the vastly popular Pentecostal churches.

Following in the footsteps of late President Michael Sata, Lungu used a largely distorted form of socialist rhetoric that appealed to the poorest sections of society, and nurtured a close alliance with the ethnic interests of the Bemba group.

Ethnic dimension

Ethnicity was an important factor in this election. Outside the urban areas, the vote was split along ethnic lines.

The Bemba areas (Northern, Muchinga and Luapula provinces) voted en masse for the PF candidate, together with people from Eastern province, where Lungu is from.

Southern province, home to the Tonga group and Hichilema, voted for the opposition candidate, joined by Western (predominantly Lozi) and North-Western (Lunda and Kaonde) provinces.

After several years of state dominance by politicians from the northern and eastern parts of the country, people from Hichilema’s rural bloc are resolute to make their claims heard. If the state does not find ways to include them, ethnic strife could be on the rise.

On August 15, people rioted against the results in Southern province, with the police making more than 130 arrests.

Groups in Western Province have been advocating secession for some time now. Increasing regional conflict and military intervention by global and regional superpowers, together with rising competition over resources between the West and BRICS, are additional risk factors for this mineral rich country.

The opposition has its own weaknesses to deal with. UPND has not moved away from an openly neoliberal agenda. Their leader is a wealthy businessman who benefited from the wholesale privatisation of the 1990s. This gives ammunition to Lungu, who portrays himself as “a humble man of the people”.

Another major mistake has been engaging the ruling party on their same terrain: during the campaign, occasional outbursts of violent retaliation were justified as self-defence, and inflammatory propaganda was rife in pro-UPND media as well.

UPND should avoid playing into PF’s provocations. The opposition needs all the support it can muster to make their case. But a non-violent approach, one that does not exclude peaceful mass protest, is essential to avoid a descent into chaos.

Vito Laterza is a research fellow in the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Oslo. He is an anthropologist and political analyst focusing on politics, economy and society in sub-Saharan Africa.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.