Unusual nature of an opposition leader’s treason charge has some Zambians questioning country’s stability
From Al Jazeera:
Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema is on trial for treason after an extraordinary confrontation with President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade. According to police officials, Lungu was endangered when Hichilema’s convoy refused to make space on the motorway. Since the incident, Hichilema has remained in police custody, spurring protests from his supporters and demands for his release.
The trial has shuttled from one magistrate to another, but the government says it is not political, defending the judicial process and calling on opposition officials to recognise the president’s authority. Zambia Reports policy analyst Peter Adamu says Hichilema has “repeatedly picked fights” with state institutions since August, when his latest bid for the presidency failed.
“It was definitely cheap for the state to tuck him away for treason but definitely that single act by Hichilema and his disciples smacks of recklessness,” he said.
Some Zambians, though, fear the treason charge might be a step on the road to dictatorship. Journalists have accused President Lungu’s administration of shuttering news outlets after unfavourable coverage, and the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops recently said that an alleged politicisation of the police has made people “afraid to speak out against injustices”. So, is Zambia’s democracy on a downward spiral, or is this just the latest round of brinkmanship from two long-time rivals?