OPINION

Hichilema’s release first step towards restoring democracy – Mmusi Maimane

DA says charges against opposition leader were clearly motivated by govt's intention to eliminate a political opponent

Hichilema’s release the first step towards restoring democracy in Zambia

16 August 2017

The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes the release of Zambian opposition leader, Hakainde Hichelima, from prison this morning following a decision by the State to drop the baseless treason charges brought against him in April this year.

The DA has said from the beginning that the charges of treason against Mr Hichilema were trumped up and clearly motivated by a government intent on eliminating a political opponent. Hichilema was arrested back in April for allegedly failing to give way to President Lungu’s motorcade.

The violent nature of his arrest, and the inhumane treatment that Hichilema received in detention, confirms the political motives behind these charges. The arbitrary arrest of political opponents is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes, which seek to systematically eliminate any potential threat to their rule.

The release of Hichilema is the first step towards restoring democracy in Zambia, and ensuring that the rule of law and the entrenchment of human rights and free speech are entrenched not just in Zambia, but across the African continent.

There is still much more to be done to restore true democracy to Zambia. The country is still under a state of emergency, characterised by “increased security measures” and the suppression of free speech and press freedom. Opposition party members have been arrested en masse, and opposition members are still not present in Parliament. Democracy cannot survive without an effect opposition, holding those in power to account.

The party Mr Hichilema leads, the United Party for National Development (UPND), is a sister party to the DA and a co-member of Southern African Partnership for Democratic Change (SAPDC) – a body which I chair. As such, the DA will continue to work with Mr Hichilema and the UPND to deepen democracy in the Southern African region and advance values such as freedom of speech and human rights.

We call on the African Union (AU), the South African Development Community (SADC), and all other regional bodies, political parties, and civil society to join us in the fight for democratic change on the African continent.

Issued by Mmusi Maimane, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 16 August 2017