HAKAINDE Hichilema says he has come out of detention ten times stronger than he was before. And Hichilema says he is ready to go back to prison if his incarcerated political party members across the country will not be released.
Hichilema was arrested on April 11 with five others on treason charges and was locked up at Lusaka Central Correctional facility before he was taken to Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison in Kabwe where he was detained under inhumane conditions, according to those who visited him.
On Monday, he and his co-accused appeared in the Lusaka High Court where they pleaded not guilty to treason and the matter was adjourned to Wednesday for commencement of trial.
But when the matter was called yesterday morning before High Court judge Charles Chanda, Director of Public Prosecutions Lilian Siyunyi informed the court that she had decided to enter a nolle prosequi in respect of all the accused persons.
“Your honour, at this juncture I would like to state that I am entering a nolle prosequi in respect of all the six accused persons pursuant to article 180 paragraph 7 of the Laws of Zambia,” said Siyunyi.
At this moment, there was some silence in court and the defence did not object. After a few minutes, judge Chanda told the accused persons that they were free to go home but emphasized that a nolle prosequi was not an acquittal.
“Stand up accused persons. The DPP has decided to terminate this case by the powers vested in her. You are hereby discharged of this offence but this is not an acquittal, you can be re-arrested,” said judge Chanda.
As soon as the judge left the courtroom, Hichilema greeted some of the party members and relatives before he and others were taken back to prison for release formalities.
Hichilema’s wife Mutinta constantly cried outside the courtroom and was quickly driven off without saying anything. Hichilema, 55, Hamusonde Hamaleka 41, Muleya Hachinda, 52, Laston Mulilanduba, 45, Pretorius Haloba, 58 and Wallace Chakawa aged 56 were alleged to have in count one, on unknown dates but between October 10, 2016 and April 8, 2017, in Lusaka, jointly and whilst acting together with other persons unknown prepared or endeavoured to overthrow by unlawful means the government of Edgar Lungu as by law established.
Addressing scores of UPND supporters at the party secretariat yesterday after his release, Hichilema said he had come out of detention ten times stronger than he was before his incarceration.
“I am willing to go back to those cells, so that is our primary responsibility. In addition, I want to say here and thank the right honorable Patricia Scotland, the secretary general of the Commonwealth and I want to say here that I had very good discussions with her, very intelligent woman, straightforward discussions and well coordinated…I want to assure you that we are stronger now than before, we are ten times stronger than before we were incarcerated but our strength will be used in a correct manner because we don’t want to be as wicked as others, we want to make sure that we provide leadership in our country so that our people can benefit from this leadership. So I ask all of you to be strong. If your president can be out there for 126 days in prison, then we can all be strong,” Hichilema said.
“I want to tell you that a lot of our people are in detention across the country and I have made it our responsibility, it should be your responsibility, it should be our responsibility to secure the release of all our people in detention throughout the country. That’s our duty. I can’t say I am free when a lot of my members are in detention, then I am not worth to be called a leader.”
The opposition leader also thanked Lusaka Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu as well as the local, international and regional stakeholders and individuals for the support rendered to him and his co-accused during their detention.
He said the UPND leadership now had a primary duty of restoring peace, order and stability in the country, adding that the hate the country was now experiencing needed to be put to an immediate end.
“Going forward, we have a primary duty, we who are in the UPND leadership and membership across the country to work towards bringing back order and stability in our country, very, very important. But I have already said that the starting point is that we must secure the release of many of our people across the country who are in detention because even today, a few of our people were detained, even yesterday, so this thing has to come to an end…We cannot continue living the way we are, it is uncomfortable. We are committed to the principles of the Commonwealth and their values on the rule of law and on good governance, on human rights and basic universal freedoms, that’s why we are seeking the release of all our people in incarceration. I want to say to you that it is also our duty to bring back unity in our country. We are so divided today, we cannot run a country in this manner and for us in the UPND, we must call out to our opposition colleagues to come together for a unity of purpose and bring order in our country,” Hichilema said.
“We have to do something and we are committed to do something, just watch what we are going to do in the next couple of days and months, just watch. There are many people who were saying ‘he will come out of prison tired’. Can Hakainde who heads cattle get tired, can he? I want to thank all of you again and I want to thank most especially my wife, I didn’t know that she was this strong, I didn’t know that she was this strong, I am lucky that I married this woman, I am very lucky. You must know that in the next few days, we are going to have a fully blown press briefing where we will address each and every fundamental issue that affects you and affects this country because you know that the criminal justice system is broken starting from law enforcement, the police, total breakdown. All the prisons, those prisons are death chambers, people are dying in those chambers every day. We have to address the prosecution, you know what is happening on the prosecution side, we have to address the judiciary side, so many things are wrong in the country, we are going to assemble and discuss those issues with you with diligence as you know. I was worried that you may be dismantled in our absence, so God bless you all. To our friends across the country, thank you very much, to the clergy; I want to single out Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu and his Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops for their courage. Under these circumstances, you need people with courage, with clarity of mind with what is right and what is wrong. Archbishop Mpundu provided leadership in this area. Thank you to the CCZ and other churches, thank you for your support. Under these very difficulty and trying times, you were there for us and gave us that support. The regional community, I am sure all of you know understand that we have a lot of friends, in the regional community, our friends in the Southern African side of our continent, our friends in East Africa who did a lot, our friends in West Africa, our friends in Europe, the European community, our friends in America including the American congress and the senate, they did a lot behind the scenes, I can tell you that.”
Earlier, there was jubilation outside Lusaka Central Prison yesterday morning as scores of UPND members sang songs and danced following the release of their leader Hakainde Hichilema and five others who were incarcerated for treason. Clad in party regalia and others in traditional attire, the excited crowd blocked part of the road at the prisons facility as they celebrated.
Drums were played and T-shirts were distributed as the frenzy unfolded. Others took off their shirts while others simply shed tears of joy as police officers watched. Some male youths were heard saying “no more standing allowance for you the police, our president is out.”
And when Obvious Mwaliteta arrived, the excited youths lifted him causing panic among other members who stood far because they thought it was Hichilema who had come out.
At exactly 10:46 hours, Hichilema and five others in the company of their lawyers emerged from Lusaka Central Prison amid cheers. The six were quickly led to a vehicle, which immediately drove off as party security personnel and later the rest of the vehicles followed the convoy. Hichilema, who was in the company of his vice Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, could not address the media right away but said he would speak at the party secretariat.
Meanwhile, there was heavy police presence at the prison premises. Hichilema was driven in a long convoy to the UPND secretariat along Provident Street in Fairview area. On Nationalist Road, hundreds of onlookers stood by, waving the UPND symbol. The loyal party sympathisers did not mind the meandering route used to get to the party secretariat as they walked side by side with the vehicle carrying the opposition leader.
The presence of recently acquitted former Kafue member of parliament Obvious Mwaliteta heightened the ecstasy among party supporters. When the convoy of people wearing mostly red – the UPND’s party colours – reached at the traffic lights on Independence Avenue near ZICTA head office, it turned towards town.
At the National Prosecutions Authority head office, a handful of onlookers peeped through to see the boisterous UPND fleet.
Curiosity from some civil servants at Cabinet Office and police headquarters was similar. Some people used every little opening in their buildings to catch a probably memorable glimpse of Hichilema. However, at the junction of Church Road, Chimanga Road and Independence Avenue, heavily armed police officers cordoned off Independence Avenue.
The motorcade, as planned, used Church Road, through Southern Sun and Taj Pamodzi hotels and ZAMCOM Lodge before branching off into Bwinjimfumu Road.
Throughout the eventful procession, a grinning Hichilema, donned in a red shirt with a beige sweater wrapped around his neck, kept on displaying a ‘romantic’ wave to hundreds of supporters who lined up, keen to see him as a free man after a gruelling four months and five days at Lusaka Central Prison and the dreaded Mukobeko Maximum Security Prison in Kabwe.