Dear Mr. Hakainde Hichilema,
I write to you this open letter after visiting Mr. Sean E. Tembo, the leader of Patriots for Economic Progress -PEP, who as at today, Sunday 4th September 2022, has been unlawfully detained at Woodlands Police Station in Lusaka falsely accused of defaming you as President of the Republic of Zambia.
My brief chat with our brother Sean, through the bars of the cell door triggered memories of my own arrests. During one of those arrests when I was leader of an opposition political party, as you will surely recall, you spoke to me on phone. I had been arrested in Kasama on 6th January 2014 on false allegations of defaming the President, the popular “chumbu munshololwa” case. In our short conversation you made it clear to me that my arrest was a violation of my constitutional right to free expression. You unequivocally condemned the arrest and reminded me about the need to unite and work together as members of the opposition.
You made it clear that your presidency would mark the end of such violation of human rights and intimidation of people with divergent views. As you know, every Zambian knows the position you held on such arrests as Mr. Tembo’s and many others. Of-course, you too were arrested and during such arrests you reiterated your views about the abuse of power to silence opposing views.
Against this background, I wish to add my voice to those of many Zambians who are saying that the unlawful and senseless detention of Mr. Sean Enock Tembo is an indelible mark of shame on your once very promising presidency. It represents a growing notorious violation of human rights under your leadership. Moreover, it is a prominent dent on your image. This recent detention of Mr. Tembo and the many arrests of Zambians with divergent views distinguishes you as a tyrant determined to crash all opposing views in a futile attempt to create a society that sings your praises.
I know that you will with disdain say that you don’t instruct the police to arrest people but that they operate independently. Please remember that your paramount job is to protect the constitution of our country. Hence, the responsibility to safeguard our constitutional rights and freedoms including freedom of expression rests squarely on your shoulders. Therefore, you cannot wash your hands like the biblical Pilate when the police are violating human rights in Zambia. Moreover, when you and others were arrested in the past, you directed your condemnation at the President as well using the same rationale.
Mr. President, please be reminded that these senseless arrests fly in the face of your own claim of more democratic space in Zambia upon your becoming President. Therefore, heed the call to stop this abuse of power by your administration. It is time for you to shake off intolerance and begin to repair your image which has been dented by the numerous violations of the rights and freedoms of innocent Zambians under your presidency. Please don’t be misled by praise-singers around you claiming that your record remains untainted. The contrary is the reality.
Member of the National Council Management Committee
Socialist Party Zambia
4th September 2022