Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane, on Thursday hosted Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema in Cape Town, and said the DA and Hichilema’s United Party for National Development (UPND) shared similar values.
Hichilema was arrested on treason charges after an incident involving Zambia President Edgar Lungu in April and Maimane told a press conference in Cape Town that Zambia’s democracy faced a great threat under the leadership of Lungu.
“The country is still under a state of emergency, characterised by the suppression of free speech and press freedom,” said Maimane.
Maimane made it clear that he was not supporting Hichilema and his release from custody just because they both happened to be opposition leaders against the ruling parties in their countries, but because they believed in the same values of democracy.
“I don’t stand with him only because he is in the opposition, it’s because we have the same values and if we don’t stand consistent with those values, then we can’t stand in solidarity,” said Maimane.
Maimane also expressed his concern that President Jacob Zuma and the South African government had not uttered a single word about Hichilema’s arrest or the abuse of human rights. “President Zuma travelled to Zambia and met with President Lungu while Mr Hichilema was in prison.
“The world only came to appreciate Zambia’s instability when Mr Hichilema was arrested, detained without trial under fabricated charges of treason and subjected to 127 days in imprisonment.”
Hichilema said there had been an absolute breakdown in the rule of law in Zambia. “It is not Zambia’s problem, it will spill over to you before you know it,” he said.
He urged the South African media to continue reporting on the state of his country: “We need to restore human rights, freedom, rule of law and liberties.”
“For Africa to prosper as a continent, we must break the stronghold of liberation movements and the dictators which they create,” added Maimane.