Police in Lusaka have detained controversial musician Pilato on his return from a self-imposed exile in South Africa.
Plain clothed police officers intercepted Pilato at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport when he landed from South Africa.
Pilato confirmed his detention on his Facebook page shortly after he was picked.
He is due to appear in court tomorrow along with five other activists who took part in a protest against the purchase of fire trucks.
“I have been detained at Kenneth Kaunda airport… Upon arrival, however the spirit will not die… I will hand over all my gadgets to the friends of Pilato, they will be updating you on everything,” he wrote.
In December 2017, Pilato released Koswe Mumpoto which contains veiled references to current and former Zambian leaders and alludes to the country’s complicated politics.
The rapper received threats from PF cadres the day the song was released with PF Central Province Youth Chairman Moses Chilando giving Pilato 48 hours to withdraw the song or face unspecified actions.
Pilato was then forced to flee to Johannesburg.
A warrant for Pilato’s arrest was issued on February 5 after he failed to appear in the Lusaka Magistrate Court on charges connected to his participation in a peaceful protest in September 2017 over the purchase of fire trucks.
Pilato insists that the timing of the warrant is suspicious.
And Amnesty International says the arrest of Pilato is a shocking demonstration of how far the Zambian government is prepared to go to strangle all criticism and crack down on freedom of expression.
“The arrest of Pilato as soon as he arrived back on home soil is a shocking affront to justice. It shows the lengths to which Zambian authorities are prepared to go to stifle dissent,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa.
“Pilato is not a criminal, he is an activist and artist. He should not spend a single night in jail. He must be released immediately and unconditionally.”
“This is a classic case of misuse of the criminal justice system in Zambia, and is designed to deal with anyone who demands accountability or is seen to be embarrassing the government,” he said.
“Pilato is not a fugitive from justice. What he is facing is blatant and unfair persecution for speaking out against abuse of power,” said Mr. Muchena.