Hichilema must face the music, says Zambian government
Lovemore Ranga Mataire recently in Zambia
Zambian Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services Kampamba Mulenga has said opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema and his supporters must allow the law to take its course instead of making aspersions against the country’s leadership.
In an exclusive interview with The Southern Times, Mulenga said allegations that President Edgar Lungu was a dictator abusing his executive powers to force the incarceration of a political opponent were unfounded.
Mulenga said while it was prejudicial to comment on case before the courts, opposition leader Hichilema must allow the courts to determine his fate as Zambia was a functional democracy with clear separation of powers of the executive, judiciary and legislature.
“They have been some calls from some sections of people both local and outside that Mr Hichilema be released but it brings sad reading because we want to uphold democracy and government operates on three different arms – the executive, judiciary and the legislature,” said Mulenga.
She said President Lungu was not mandated to pardon anyone who is facing charges before the courts but could only do so only after a verdict has been passed by the courts.
He said calls for the President to interfere with an ongoing court case would be a breach of democracy and a violation of the constitution.
Mulenga said the attempts by Hichilema and his supporters to attract international attention by creating chaos was not helpful as Zambia was a sovereign state and adheres to the sanctity of the rule of law.
“Democracy comes with responsibility. People think that democracy means doing what you want at will without regard to other people’s rights. No. I think this is where we are missing it by and large of what democracy is,” Mulenga said.
She said the current constitution was a people driven document produced after wide consultations with people at grassroots, provincial, national and later the parliament.
“The opposition political parties including UPND (led by Hichilema) and his members of parliament were part of that process and we all agreed that this was a people-driven constitution.
The President appended his signature and said so be it, let us give the people of this republic what they want. Being an opposition leader does not warrant you to do as you wish and this is where we differ with our colleagues on the other side”.
She said opposition leaders were not above the law and they needed to lead by example by respecting the law.
Mulenga said alleged police brutality peddled by opposition political parties was a grotesque lie as the country was peaceful with citizens going about their everyday business. She said the fact that the country hosted two Heads of State from Madagascar and Ghana and other high level visits by a Chinese delegation was testimony of the country’s good standing on the international arena.
“I think this President has made Zambia a safer place because he believes in democracy and won’t interfere in the court processes.
And the image that is being portrayed by the opposition is misleading,” said Mulenga.
She said president Lungu’s democratic credentials were impeccable given the fact that even after winning the 2016 Presidential election and was already at the State House he had to wait for close to a month for the courts to make a ruling after the opposition had challenged the results.
“We were in the middle of a budget and when the President came to address parliament the first time, the opposition Members of Parliament did not have any regard for him but he did not say anything, he did not issue any statement in regard to that because he believes in democracy and is in a hurry to develop this country than talk about petty issues.”
She said the Zambian government was amenable to dialogue with all citizens including churches, non-governmental organisations, civic groups and even political parties.
She, however, said such dialogue must be progressive and not fixated on 11 August (the day of Presidential election results) as the next such elections would be held in 2021.
According to police chief Kakoma Kanjanga, Hichilema was arrested with five other party officials for obstructing the motorcade of President Lungu, an action he described as reckless and criminal.
They were all charged with treason and the offence is non-bailable.
The opposition leader was last Friday moved from the capital Lusaka to Mukobeko Maximum Prison in Kabwe in a move described by his supporters as high-handed.