Editor's Note

HH’s treason charge is baffling

The arrest of UPND President Hakainde Hichilema (HH) for treason is bewildering to say the least. HH has been charged with treason according to Article 43 (1) (a): “A person is guilty of treason (…) who prepares or endeavours to overthrow by unlawful means the government”. If HH’s motorcade refused to give way to President Lungu’s motorcade, as the police obviously believe (although this is being disputed by the UPND), it certainly is provocative, disrespectful and potentially reckless. It may even be criminal, but it does not strike me as a convincing attempt at overthrowing a government. Obviously, this is now for the court to decide, and may it be allowed to do so free of political pressure! The problem is that the police are an extension of the executive, and by slapping a treason charge on HH, they are giving the impression that Zambia is becoming increasingly autocratic. Let’s hope our development partners, funders and investors will be able to laugh off this unfortunate incident.

Camilla Hebo Buus, Editor Zambia Weekly
  • politics
  • justice

The battle of the motorcades

This year’s Kuomboka Ceremony in Western Province on 8 April – held for the first time since 2013 – was READ MORE...
  • politics
  • justice
  • focus

HH arrested for treason

Main opposition party president Hakainde Hichilema (HH) has been arrested and charged with treason, a non-bailable offence, which comes with READ MORE...
  • environment
  • infrastructure

Lake Kariba is almost half full

The water level in Lake Kariba has risen to 481.82 metres above sea level (masl) as at 19 April 2017, READ MORE...
  • justice

A spate of arsons?

First it was a hostel block at Chalimbana University in Chongwe that was gutted by fire, and then it was READ MORE...
  • justice
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Is someone listening in on your calls?

The Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority (ZICTA) has raided CEC Liquid Telecom (picture) and other ICT firms. Some reports READ MORE...
  • justice

State tries to kill whistle-blower?

Opposition United Progressive Party president Saviour Chishimba has allegedly gone into hiding, claiming that state agents have tried to kill READ MORE...
  • politics
  • justice

More UPND rallies cancelled

The main opposition UPND party is failing to hold a planned political rally to thank its voters for their support READ MORE...
  • justice

PF officials suspended over land

Eight members of the ruling PF party have been suspended for allegedly being involved in illegal land allocation in Ndola. READ MORE...

This Week’s Exchange

Nic Cheeseman, professor of democracy and international development, Birmingham University, UK, stated:

“Until now, Zambia’s progress under multi-party politics has been quietly impressive. Over the last year, though, things have changed. (…) According to the Conference of Catholic Bishops – one of the most influential bodies in the country – Zambia doesn’t deserve to be called a democracy (…) it has become a dictatorship – or getting there. Many Catholic leaders were seen to be sympathetic to the PF, when it won power under Michael Sata in 2011, so what has changed? This is not the first time that a Zambian president has sought to consolidate his authority by manipulating state institutions. Nor is it the first time that opposition leaders have been arrested, or civil society groups intimidated. In the recent past, these moments of high political tension have often been resolved peacefully, (…) but it’s unlikely that Lungu will cede his quest to remain in office. First, key civil society groups such as the trade unions have been weakened by privatisation, informalisation and unemployment. Second, the Constitutional Court, that’s responsible for interpreting the constitution, was handpicked by Lungu. Third, Lungu’s case is more complicated than Chiluba’s. In 2001, the second president had served two full terms in office and wanted one more. Today, Lungu is arguing that he should be allowed to have a third term because his first period in office did not count, as he was just serving out the final year of Sata’s term. All of this means that Lungu is likely to get his way. (…) Opposition protests are inevitable, as is some civil society criticism. If past form is anything to go by, Lungu’s government will respond with threats and intimidation.”

Ruling PF party deputy secretary general Mumbi Phiri reacted:

Cheeseman is nothing but an attention-seeking professor, who thinks he can lecture us about democracy. The people of Zambia spoke through the vote, and their wishes must be respected by all, including Cheeseman. Cheeseman creates the impression that there was a letter authored by all Catholic bishops, which labelled Zambia as a dictatorship. For the record, that was an opinion expressed by the archbishop. (…) It is irresponsible for Cheeseman to compare ours with late President Frederick Chiluba’s third-term bid. The view that the current constitution allows President Lungu to seek re-election (…) is before the courts of law. (…) the PF will respect the outcome of the court system. President Lungu’s good governance record remains solid. It was President Lungu’s administration that took the referendum on the proposed Bill of Rights to the people. (…) it was UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema who campaigned against it. It is President Lungu’s administration, which allowed for the 50%+1 clause in the constitution, the running mate clause, and reduction of presidential powers. President Lungu believes in an independent judiciary. (…) Today, Zambia has a Constitutional Court, something that was unheard of in the history of our nation. While the opposition petitioned the Constitutional Court, President Lungu remained calm until the matter expired. We wish to correct the view that human rights of politicians in trouble with the law are being violated. Citizens, who are also politicians, and on trial, have appeared in court within a week of being charged, and (…) for continued trial. The due process of the law is clearly being followed to the letter. Professor Cheeseman‘s daydream, that Zambia is falling from grace because of HH’s arrest, is a lie. Zambia remains a shining example of democracy not only on the African continent but world over.”