Opposition leader and Presidential candidate of the United Party for National Development (UPND) in the August 11, 2016, presidential elections, Hakainde Hichilema has been invited for questioning by the Zambian police for allegedly fueling the protests by citizens against Chinese presence in the country.
According to the police, his statement stirred up the anger of the public and resulted in riots targeted at the Chinese. He has been warned not to further contribute to protests and ethnic attacks in what appears to be an increasing political tension in the country.
This is not the first time Mr. Hichilema will be invited by the police. He was arrested and detained for four months last year for alleged treason in a case which many critics believe was politically motivated and criticized President Edgar Lungu and his party, The Patriotic Front.
Hichilema has continued to challenge the result of the 2016 election, which he lost to President Edgar Lungu by a very small margin. Edgar Lungu won the popular vote by 1,860,877 to 1,760,347 and the elections result by 50.35% to 47.63%.
Speaking on the purpose of the invitation, Charity Katanga, the Police Chief of Copperbelt Province, said Hichilema was questioned due to the comments he made that the government sold a state-run timber company to Chinese investors.
He said the statements were responsible for the protests in Kitwe, which saw some Chinese businesses robbed and scores of protesters arrested.
Speaking to AFP, Katanga said:
“He has been cautioned for sedition.
“In an interview aired by Sun-FM, he alleged that government has sold Zaffico to the Chinese.
“His statement caused discontent among residents and caused riots targeted at the Chinese. He has been warned to not incite ethnicity attacks.”
Hichilema was accompanied to the police station in the Copperbelt capital Ndola by party deputy Geoffrey Mwamba, a team of lawyers, and Chishimba Kambwili, a renowned Lungu critic and scores of party supporters.
Speaking to reporters after the questioning, Hakainde Hichilema said:
“It’s about standing for the people of Zambia. If you are afraid, you should not seek public office.
“And as per our constitutional right, we decided to remain silent during the interrogation process.”
During the interrogation, police officers had to barricade the entrance to the police station to prevent the crowd of supporters from entering the building.