SOUTH Africa’s Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane says he will only meet President Edgar Lungu to discuss his governance style if the Head of State is ready to condemn the arrest of UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema and five others over alleged treason.
President Lungu, who is already in South Africa for the SADC Heads of State summit, has called for a meeting with EFF leader Julius Malema and Maimane to understand their concerns about Zambia.
He instructed the Zambian High Commission in Pretoria, South Africa to facilitate a meeting with Malema and Maimane during his stay there because the two South African opposition leaders had continued to criticize his government.
President Lungu claimed that the two opposition parties had appeared to disrespect the sovereignty of Zambia and had interfered in the domestic affairs of countries like Zambia, Swaziland, Lesotho and Zimbabwe.
He said the two parties were creating a dangerous precedence that was likely to encourage political interference across borders.
But Maimane, who was in May denied entry into Zambia to visit Hichilema, turning him back to South Africa at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport before he could even disembark a plane, said he cannot meet President Lungu if he is not willing to condemn the opposition leader’s arrest in April.
He tweeted this morning and later issued a statement that President Lungu should promise to uphold democracy in Zambia and reconvene Parliament before calling for a meeting with him and Malema.
“We can only meet if he (President Lungu) is willing to condemn the recent arrest of HH, reconvene parliament and uphold the institutions of democracy in Zambia,” tweeted Maimane yesterday morning.
In a statement later, he further demanded that President Lungu lifts the 90-day state of threatened emergency before engaging him.
I have noted Zambian President Edgar Lungu’s public appeal to schedule a meeting with me this weekend while he is in South Africa attending the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit in Pretoria. The Zambian High Commission has also made contact with my office to formally request such a meeting. I will only agree to meet with President Lungu if he publicly commits to a programme that works to restore Zambia’s democracy. This must include lifting the 90-day state of emergency; reconvening Parliament; restoring the independence of the justice system; ensuring the media is free from suppression and intimidation; and ending the oppressive treatment of the opposition in Zambia. Furthermore, an apology must be made to Mr Hakainde Hichilema, the Leader of the Opposition, who was arrested on trumped up treason charges and detained for almost four months in the most inhumane conditions – only for the charges to dropped as baseless,
“Under President Lungu, Zambia is fast heading towards a dictatorship. The country is still under a state of emergency, characterised by ‘increased security measures’ and the suppression of free speech and press freedom. Opposition party members have been arrested en masse, and opposition members are still not present in Parliament. Part of my work as Leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Chairperson of the Southern African Platform for Democratic Change (SAPDC) is to work constructively with leaders, form both governing and opposition parties of democratic states in the SADC region. That said, we must ensure that those who we work with are committed to democratic practices such as human rights, constitutionalism, and the rule of law. Having consulted with Mr Hichilema and the United Party for National Development (UNPD), I am well aware of the deteriorating state of democracy in Zambia, and I will constructively engage with all sides who are genuinely committed to reversing this trend.”
He advised African leaders to work towards building their nations.
The SADC Summit, which is being hosted in South Africa, presents an opportune moment for the South African Government to condemn and act against leaders in the region – and across the continent – who continue to undermine democracy and commit human rights violations,
“Africa’s prosperity will only be fully realised when ‘big men’ humble themselves by submitting to the institutions and laws of democracy, and work towards building for their people and future generations.”