Ever since taking over as the leader of the Democratic Alliance, one of the opposition parties in South Africa, Mmusi Maimane has joined the bandwagon of firebrand politicians who are never afraid of challenging the current president of the country, Jacob Zuma.
Just before Jacob Zuma left for Zambia this week, Maimane called upon the incumbent president to distance himself from the “dictators” like Zambia’s president Edgar Lungu. He sternly urged Zuma to raise critical objections to the crisis unfolding in the southern African country. According to News24, Jacob Zuma has been invited by Zambia’s president for the official opening of the 91st Agricultural and Commercial Show to be held on Saturday.
Maimane had this to say in a statement, “President Zuma must use this engagement with President Lungu to raise South Africa’s strong objections to the crisis unfolding in Zambia under Lungu’s watch.
In particular, President Zuma should denounce the inhumane treatment in prison of the Zambian leader of the opposition, Hakainde Hichilema, and to call for his immediate release."
The presidency in South Africa released a statement which postulated that South Africa and Zambia have good bilateral relations in the social, economic and political spaces and that their strong ties are underpinned by a lot of history they share and the struggle for liberation.
Events in Zambia of late have shown an inclination towards authoritarian rule with president Lungu clamping down on people’s freedom and with opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema in prison over treason charges. On 25 May, Maimane went to Zambia for the trial of Hichilema but was denied entry and immediately sent back to South Africa. Maimane has on countless occasions bemoaned the dictatorship that is rearing its ugly head onto the Zambian political terrain.
Democracy in Zambia has been rapidly deteriorating with Lungu making sinister moves to ensure that he takes most of the power from the democratic pinnacles of the country. On the other hand, Zuma is now developing a bad streak for entertaining authoritarian rulers. A couple of months back Jacob Zuma hosted the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Joseph Kabila. Kabila has refused to step down after his mandate expired last year and also is reluctant that elections must be held, which has triggered civil unrest in the country.
Many Zambians fear that Lungu is turning Zambia into a dictatorship.
Maimane said that South Africa must not continue with its quiet diplomacy as this could further undermine democracy. He is of the view that Hichilema is a victim of a witch-hunt by Lungu and that the trumped up charges of treason pose a real threat to democracy on the continent. Zambia’s reputation as a bastion of democracy has been on the wane, with Amnesty International reporting that last year’s elections were marked by violence. To this end, Maimane has not only called on Zuma but on Africans at large to fight the menace growing in Zambia in order to safeguard democracy and the will of the people.
The situation in Zambia also saw Lungu declaring a state of emergency last month, a move that sparked widespread fears over how the rights of the people will be upheld.