Supporters of the opposition UPND party have held a prayer service for UPND president Hakainde Hichilema and his five co-accused. The service was organised by Pastor Kangwa Chileshe of the City of Refuge Ministries at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Lusaka. It attracted UPND members, their political partners, supporters and other government-critical people, but the church did not look particularly packed. Conspicuous by his absence was UPND vice-president Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, although his wife was present, as was HH’s wife and other members of the family.

The Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops distanced itself from the service, denying reports that it had organised it. The Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia hoped that the service would convince HH of the value of holding national prayers, referring to the fact that HH boycotted two national prayer days held last year for economic recovery and peaceful elections.

The ruling PF party welcomed the initiative, but explained that it would not partake due to the risk involved for its members. PF deputy spokesman – and former Catholic priest – Frank Bwalya said the ruling party believed in the power of prayer, and that the PF would pray for HH in spirit, both for a fair trial and for justice to be done, and also because God works miracles: “The position Mr Hichilema and some of his supporters have found themselves in could be the appropriate situation for God to touch him in a special way and make him a national asset in promoting peace, forgiveness and reconciliation in Zambia while still striving to be president one day,” Bwalya stated.

HH has now spent over five weeks in jail since his arrest on 11 April 2017.