South Africa’s opposition DA leader Mmusi Maimane called on President Jacob Zuma him to distance himself from “dictators” like President Edgar Lungu as the South African leader is due to arrive in Lusaka on an official visit.
Mr. Maimane said in a statement on Friday that President Zuma must use this engagement with President Lungu to raise South Africa’s strong objections to the crisis unfolding in Zambia under President Lungu’s watch.
“In particular, President Zuma should denounce the inhumane treatment in prison of the Zambian leader of the opposition, Hakainde Hichilema, and to call for his immediate release.”
“The human rights abuses faced by Mr. Hichilema must be condemned in the strongest terms. It is clear that these trumped up charges are a witch hunt by an increasingly threatened President Lungu, and pose a very real threat to democracy on the African continent,” Mr Maimane said.
President Zuma would be in Lusaka on Saturday to officially open the 91st Agricultural and Commercial Show as a guest of honour at President Lungu’s invitation.
On May 25, Maimane flew to Lusaka to attend jailed opposition leader Hichilema’s treason trial.
He was denied entry into the country and put on the first plane back to South Africa.
Mr. Hichilema was arrested in April after his motorcade did not get out of the way of President Lungu’s motorcade quickly enough during the Kuomboka ceremony.
He was charged with treason, which is punishable by death in Zambia.
“It is clear that these trumped-up charges are a witch hunt by an increasingly threatened President Lungu, and pose a very real threat to democracy on the African continent,” Mr. Maimane said.
South Africa could not continue its “quiet diplomacy” as it could lead to democracy being undermined.
“South Africa must work with its neighbours to protect democracy because, in Africa, a threat to democracy for some is a threat to democracy for all,” he said.
“We will continue to advocate for the advancement of vibrant, competitive, multiparty democracy, the rule of law and the entrenchment of human rights and free speech across Africa.”