Tag Archives: President Edgar Lungu

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.

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 – Lungu and PF ahead in count and opposition claims rigging

Zambia Reports

Pres. Lungu Ahead In Verified ECZ Results; Edgar Lungu 207, 547 Hichilema 153, 630

ECZ MulungushiAccording to ECZ results announced in today’s press briefing from 22 constituencies out of 156, ruling Patriotic Front candidate Edgar Lungu is leading the opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema of the UPND.

The ECZ chairperson is currently announcing another round of results.

BELOW IS THE BREAKDOWN BY ECZ

OFFICIAL PARTIAL PRESIDENTIAL RESULTS (22/156 Constituencies)

1. Edgar Lungu – 207, 547
2. Hakainde Hichilema – 153,630
3. Edith Nawakwi – 2519
4. Andyford Banda – 1303
5. Tilyenji Kaunda – 1104
6. Winter Kabimba – 901
7. Saviour Chishimba – 747
8. Peter Sinkamba – 521
9. Maxwell Mwamba – 225

 

Reuters

Patriotic Front (PF) Presidential candidate Edgar Lungu and his wife Esther Lungu leave a rally in Lusaka January 19, 2015.REUTERS/Rogan Ward/File
By Chris Mfula and Stella Mapenzauswa | LUSAKA

President Edgar Lungu was ahead of his main rival on Saturday in early counting from Zambia’s presidential election, but the main opposition said its count showed their candidate ahead and the vote may have been rigged.

Lungu faces a stiff challenge from United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema, who accuses him of failing to steer the economy out of its slump after Africa’s second-largest copper producer was hit by weak commodity prices.

He led with 262,149 votes against Hichilema’s 243,794 after 29 of the country’s 156 constituencies in Thursday’s voting had been collated, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) told a news conference also attended by political parties.

Early results announced on Saturday from only eight constituencies had put Hichilema ahead.

In a statement, the UPND said data from its own parallel counting system showed Hichilema beating Lungu “with a clear margin”, based on about 80 percent of votes counted.

Electoral officials have warned political parties against making such statements, but all parties have access to the raw voting data and may add up the results faster than the national commission.

The ECZ had hoped to have final results from the elections – in which Zambians also chose members of parliament, mayors and local councillors and decided on proposed constitutional changes – by early Sunday. Results were now expected later, officials said, without giving a time frame.

The commission had earlier rejected UPND charges that some officials were working to manipulate results to the advantage of Lungu’s Patriotic Front.

It said police were still investigating a report that an ECZ official had given his identity card on Friday to a man who could then enter the commission’s computer room and tamper with the results.

The UPND renewed its calls for the commission to remove some officials from the election process to preserve its credibility.

“There is a syndicate in this institution and the syndicate is colluding to steal the election,” UPND lawyer Martha Mushipe said.

LARGE VOTER TURNOUT

The ECZ has also defended the relatively slow pace in announcing election results, saying audits were taking longer than expected due to a large voter turnout.

As of Saturday’s count, turnout was at 56.72 percent, far above the 32 percent recorded early last year when Lungu narrowly won an election to fill the vacancy left by the death of then president Michael Sata.

If no candidate manages to win more than 50 percent this time, Zambia will have to hold a second round of elections.

Campaigning for this week’s vote centred on the economy, after months of rising unemployment, mine closures, power shortages and soaring food prices.

Supporters of the two main parties clashed in what is generally one of the continent’s most stable democracies.

With emotions running high as parties awaited results, the ECZ would need to clearly demonstrate it was acting to resolve complaints to retain the confidence of the electorate, political analyst Lee Habasonda of the University of Zambia said.

“People are giving them the benefit of doubt at this particular time, they have not lost confidence in them yet but yes, there are certain questions being raised about their performance,” he told Reuters.

Hichilema says the president has mismanaged the economy but Lungu, whose government has been negotiating a financial support package with the International Monetary Fund, blames weak growth on plunging commodity prices.

(Editing by Tom Heneghan)

 

Tensions remain high as Zambia heads to the polls

Institute for Security Studies (Tshwane)

11 August 2016

Zambians head to voting stations today in a historic five-ballot poll to elect the country’s president, members of Parliament, mayors and councillors.

The Zambian Constitution was amended and adopted in 2015, which means these elections take place under a new legal framework. A 50%+1 threshold for winning the presidential vote has since been introduced. The winner therefore needs to win not only the highest number of votes, but must also secure a simple majority of the total votes cast.

Alongside the national poll is a fifth ballot; a national referendumon the Bill of Rights. This allows the Zambian public to choose whether or not Parliament can amend Part Three of the Constitution – which deals with individual, civic and political rights – in order to complete the constitution-making process. The outcome is crucial given that the Bill of Rights enshrines and protects certain individual rights, including from government involvement.

The contents of the proposed Bill of Rights will be finalised in Parliament after the elections. This would be Zambia’s first national referendum in 47 years, and the first to be managed by its electoral body, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), since its establishment in 1996.

The 2016 elections are the most challenging in Zambia’s recent history
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Some 7.5 million Zambians are eligible to vote, of whom a total of 6 698 372 have registered for the 11 August polls. This marks an increase of about 1.5 million voters from the last national elections in 2011. Voting in the referendum does not require one to be a registered voter – only to have a national identity card.

The figures are important, as there has always been controversy around the integrity of the voter register. This mostly relates to duplication and weak verification controls. But beyond the register, there have also been concerns around voter turnout.

The country saw low voter turnout in the past three elections – this despite high registration numbers. In the 2015 presidential elections, for instance, turnout was at 32%. This had been higher at 53.65% in 2011; and 45.4% for 2008. Low voter turnout can undermine the democratic legitimacy of an incoming regime.

Conducting the national poll is a massive operation for the ECZ. The country is divided into 10 provinces, 150 constituencies, 103 districts and 1 624 wards. There are 7 700 polling stations and 10 818 polling streams.

Nine political parties are contending for the presidential vote, with the incumbent President Edgar Lungu of the governing Patriotic Front (PF) and Hakainde Hichilema from the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) as the frontrunners.

Incidents of electoral and political violence have been escalating in various parts of the country in the run-up to the elections – particularly between UPND and PF supporters. This comes despite all political parties having signed various peace accords and pledges aimed at preventing violence during the elections.

Civil society and opposition parties say the timing for Zambia’s referendum is bad
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As one of the first countries to introduce multiparty politics in Southern Africa in the early 1990s, Zambia has managed to build strong foundations for a competitive political system. The Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) dominated Zambian politics for almost 20 years, but there was a change in the country’s leadership in September 2011 when Michael Sata’s PF won the elections. The incumbent president from the MMD, Rupiah Banda, conceded defeat and allowed a smooth transfer of power to Sata.

Prior to Sata’s victory, Zambia experienced a turbulent period when opposition parties contested the 2001 and 2008 election results. A presidential by-election was conducted in January 2015 following Sata’s death, where Lungu defeated the UPND candidate by only 27 000 votes. Historically, there is a pattern of narrow margins in presidential victories.

The 2016 elections are the most complicated and challenging in Zambia’s recent history. The first reason for this is the timing of the referendum – conducted alongside the national poll.

As mentioned, this national referendum is a first for Zambia. Civil society organisations and opposition parties argue are that the timing is bad and that there has not been sufficient public education about it. Opposition parties further argue that the referendum should have been held separately, and that it stands to be politicised.

The government, however, contends that the approach saves money. There is merit to the argument. The initial constitution-making process was long and expensive, and a separate referendum at the back of this process would have brought about additional delays and costs. This may have been to the detriment of dealing with other, pressing needs – given that the country is facing its worst economic crisis in more than 10 years.

Zambia is facing its worst economic crisis in more than 10 years
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But the concerns raised are also valid. Ignorance, suspicion and fear dominate discussions on the referendum, according to McDonald Chipenzi, an electoral expert and former director of the Foundation for Democratic Process. According to Chipenzi, the laws, regulations and procedures guiding the referendum have not been adequately shared with Zambians, and the referendum will be divisive with people voting along party lines.

‘The likelihood of manipulating the elections using the referendum is high,’ he says. ‘Those voting in a referendum do not need to be registered voters but only need to posses a national identity card. They don’t have a designated polling station and can vote anywhere around the country. The referendum may also flop if it doesn’t meet the required threshold of 50% in favour.’

Another ‘threshold’ condition that challenges the elections is the 50%+1 requirement for winning the presidential vote. The PF government expressed their misgivings about it during the constitution-making process, since it would decrease their chances of winning in the upcoming elections.

At the peak of its popularity, the PF won 42% of the total votes cast at the country’s last polls in 2011. No party has amassed an outright win in the last four national polls, and a re-run is likely. A re-run has to take place within 37 days in the event of there being no outright winner.

Lungu has only been in power for a year and half, and is seeking a full term for the PF and himself. For his opponent, Hichilema, this is largely perceived as his final shot. He is running for presidency for the fifth time – also at a time when the UPND is at its strongest.

Like with the most recent presidential elections, battleground provinces will determine the victor, and the extent to which the UPND has been able to penetrate PF strongholds, and vice versa. The PF has also split since the last 2015 presidential election, with influential figures like its former vice president Guy Scott, the country’s former defence minister Geoffrey Mwamba and the late president’s son, Mulenga Sata, all defecting to the UPND.

Both parties have approached the election as a ‘do-or-die’ affair, which has also been reflected in the recent upsurge of political violence across the country. Last month, the ECZ banned campaigning for a week in some districts due to growing cases of violence.

Lungu has signalled that he might use ‘draconian means’ to ensure the country remains peaceful after the polls. The opposition has labelled the statement as aggressive in the context of managing tensions in an election, and say that any action to that effect would subvert the constitution and plunge the country into further chaos. Prospects of violence after the election and during the run-off cannot be ruled out either.

These may also have to do with how electoral disputes are managed and adjudicated; both require a great deal of objectivity and impartiality, and this will be an additional test for the ECZ and the courts.

Dimpho Motsamai, Senior Researcher, Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis, ISS Pretoria

Zambian opposition leader arrested for inciting violence

Reuters

A leader of the main opposition party in Zambia was arrested on Friday on suspicion of proposing violence against President Edgar Lungu, police said, the latest sign of tension ahead of August elections.

Geoffrey Mwamba, vice-president of the United Party for National Development, was arrested for a verbal attack on Lungu this week in which he said he would “go for his throat”, police spokeswoman Charity Chanda said.

Police on Wednesday arrested and released Mwamba in another case in which he was accused of training party supporters to become an illegal militia.

“We have arrested Mr Mwamba for proposing violence. This is in connection with a statement he made proposing to cause death to the Republican President,” Chanda said.

The offence carries a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison, a lawyer said.

Last week, Lungu accused political opponents of training a militia to carry out violence during the elections. They denied the accusation.

Police last week said they had arrested 21 United Party for National Development supporters found training in a gym on Mwamba’s business premises, some with weapons such as machetes and with live ammunition.

Zambia is due to hold presidential, parliamentary and local government elections on Aug. 11. Lungu and United Party for National Development leader Hakainde Hichilema are seen as front runners in the presidential race.

(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

Zambia – Glencore copper mine lays of 4,300 workers

Reuters

Business News | Tue Nov 24, 2015

Glencore’s (GLEN.L) Zambian unit has laid off 4,300 workers, union and company sources said on Tuesday, as the mining and trading company deepens cuts in copper output to support flagging prices.

“The company started giving out the letters of redundancy yesterday and has continued with the exercise today,” one union official said, referring to Glencore unit Mopani Copper Mines.

The union source said around 5,000 employees working for contractors would also lose their jobs as Mopani would only maintain two contractors specialised in the sinking of shafts.

Mopani had said in a letter dated October 21 giving notice of redundancy to mine unions that the firm was still losing millions of dollars and had to take action to secure its long term viability.

Mining companies are under Zambian law required to labour unions at least one month’s notice before laying off employees.

Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu said earlier this month he would not allow Glencore’s unit to lay off workers.

Mopani was expected to pay the 4,300 workers a total of $33 million, two company sources with knowledge of the retrenchment plan told Reuters.

Swiss-based Glencore has pledged to cut its net debt to $20 billion by the end of 2016 to regain the trust of investors after its shares tumbled to record lows this year.

(Reporting by Chris Mfula; Editing by James Macharia)