South Africa’s Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane has insisted that despite the fracas and his deportation from Zambia, he will attempt to be in Lusaka on the next trial date of detained Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema.
“I have asked the Zambian High Commission to give me full reasons why they denied us entry yesterday [Thursday] in Zambia. They have assured me that they are going to come back to me about that issue,” Mr. Maimane said as he emerged from a meeting with Zambian High Commissioner in Pretoria Emmanuel Mwamba.
“Furthermore, we are not going to stay away. I have asked that at the next trial [appearance] of Mr HH [Hakainde Hichilema], we will go and attend – not because we want to meddle with the courts of Zambia, but we want to stand and ensure that the Zambian government acts in a democratic manner.
“I still hold the views that Mr Lungu [Zambian President Edgar Lungu] is not acting in a manner consistent with democracy. Therefore I will be going back there, given the time, for us to go and support Mr HH in Zambia. We are not going to be deterred.”
Earlier on Friday, Mr. Mwamba said Mr. Maimane had been notified this week to postpone his visit to Lusaka.
“On Tuesday, Mr Maimane’s office got in touch with us and informed us that he will be travelling to Zambia on Thursday. When we contacted Lusaka, especially about the details of Mr Maimane’ visit, we were advised that Mr Maimane should reschedule his visit,” Mwamba said as he addressed journalists in Pretoria.
“His visit was to go and visit his colleague [Hakainde Hichilema leader of largest Zambian opposition United Party for National Development UPNP] in solidarity and we found nothing wrong with that. But we advised him that there were concerns over his statements and utterances especially regarding the sanctity of our courts.”
Mr. Mwamba said Mr. Maimane had also been advised to get permission from Zambian courts “because there is a list which the courts approve, of people who can see Mr Hichilema.”.
The envoy said Lusaka will determine who is allowed permission into the country.
“Zambia as a sovereign state can determine persons to be allowed entry into our country and that is not in dispute. We however wish to affirm that Zambia continues to have mutual and admirable diplomatic relations with South Africa based on the historical economic and social ties between the two countries,” he said.
Mr. Mwamba said Lusaka had taken serious issue with Mr. Maimane’s remarks on the independence of the judiciary in Zambia, ahead of the trip.
“If you look at our judiciary, which is more like the British one, it is not similar to the South African one where you allow cameras in courtrooms. Ours is quite a conservative one. The integrity and sanctity of our courts of law is jealously guarded.
“We do not allow undue pressure, not even our Republic’s President can put pressure on our courts. So the remarks by Mr Maimane, stating that he was to pressure the courts to release Mr Hichilema – how does he pressure the courts? He said he wants to pressure our government to release Mr Hichilema. Is it not government holding Mr Hichilema,” said Mr. Mwamba.
“The arrest of Mr Hichilema does not in any way state that we are sliding into a dictatorship. It is simply a matter of the rule of law – no one is above the law.”
Mr. Mwamba addressed journalists after meeting officials from South Africa’s department of international relations, who wanted an explanation on Mr.Maimane’s Lusaka experience.
“Our position is very simple, that as an ordinary person Mr Maimane is very welcome. But if he wishes to politicise our court process, it is very clear we will not allow our court processes to be politicised,” said Mr. Mwamba.
He said Mr. Maimane has previously said charges against Mr. Hichilema were trumped up, and that was an assault on Zambia’s sovereignty, “and it undermines our rule of law and the judiciary especially”.
Mr. Maimane on Friday described how he and his colleagues were manhandled, had their cellphones and iPads confiscated by Zambian authorities.
They were prevented from disembarking from the aeroplane in Lusaka before they were forced to leave that country.
Maimane and his entourage were in Lusaka, hoping to attend the treason trial of Mr. Hichilema.
The detained opposition leader is alleged to have attempted to block President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade, which was travelling on the same road.