15 - 04
Zambia’s opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema, has been charged along with five others on accusations of treason stemming from a traffic incident.
The leader of the United Party for National Development was grabbed by police from his residence in Lusaka, and has been in detention since Tuesday as there’s no bail for individuals formally accused of treasonable offences.
“It was established that the opposition leader disobeyed police orders to give way to the presidential motorcade in an attempt to put the life of the Republican President in danger,” stated the Inspector General of Police, Kakoma Kanganja.
“Mr. Hichilema’s actions were unreasonable, reckless and criminal,” added the Inspector General.
According to the police, Hakainde Hichilema’s convoy refused to give way to the presidential motorcade in the town of Mongu, some 500km west of Lusaka, on Saturday, thus endangering the life of the president, who was in town to attend a traditional ceremony.
In addition to treason, which could see the opposition leader and his co-accused languish in jail for at least fifteen years, there are charges for disobeying a lawful order and using abusive language.
From the same incident, twelve other UPND members were arrested for obstructing the police.
According to Hichilema’s lawyer, the opposition leader isn’t exactly surprised by the charges against him, as “he has always known that the PF [Patriotic Front] have always wanted to charge him with a non-bailable offence.”
The political rivalry between Hakainde Hichilema and President Edgar Lungu has been intense, and hasn’t totally dissipated since last August’s presidential elections.
Mr Hakainde Hichilema, who lost by 200,000 votes, insists that the electoral commission colluded with the ruling party to deny him his victory, and has filed several suits to contest the official results.
For this reason, the charges are seen by a section of Zambian society as a truncheon to coerce compliance from the opposition.
Hakainde Hichilema and his deputy were after all previously charged with sedition, and that is an ongoing concern.