13 July 2017

South Africa: President Lungu Using Undemocratic and Apartheid-Like Tactics in Zambia

Photo: allafrica.com
President Edgar Lungu and opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema (file photo).
press release

The Democratic Alliance (DA) strongly condemns the approval of an extended 90-day state of emergency in Zambia, implemented by President Lungu and his party, the Patriotic Alliance.

This act is a fresh attempt by the Lungu administration to undermine democracy in Zambia, and to cement a dictatorship by stifling any dissenting voices that do not agree with the current autocratic regime.

I call on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to convene an urgent meeting of its Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation Organ, to consider the current situation unfolding in Zambia, and to speak out. SADC has a responsibility to protect the people of Zambia and democracy in the region, and it has the power to act against Zambia.

Moreover, I call on President Zuma to break his silence on the situation unfolding in Zambia and speak out against the actions of the Lungu administration. The "quiet diplomacy" of the past cannot be allowed to repeat itself and, as history has shown, has the potential to allow for democracy to be undermined.

As the Chairperson of the Southern Africa Platform for Democratic Change (SAPDC), I will not remain silent while democracy in Zambia crumbles.

The Zambian Parliament has voted to extend the state of emergency by a further 3 months, handing virtually unrestricted powers to the President, the police and the military. This is story South Africa is familiar with, having overcome the multiple states of emergency of the 1980s. These powers are nearly always used to intimidate the opposition, crush dissent and punish citizens who speak up. This parliamentary vote was boycotted by opposition parties - including the DA's sister party in Zambia, the United Party for National Development (UPND) - in an act of protest towards the Lungu administration.

The Zambian Police - under Lungu's control - now have an increased power to arrest and detain citizens, and many civil rights have been suspended, either partially or in full. This move by President Lungu is the mark of a paranoid dictator, who fears his own people, and fears losing power. The actions by President Lungu are no different to those of Apartheid Prime Minister, PW Botha, who used a state of emergency to consolidate power and crush opposition voices.

Lungu has already jailed the leader of the opposition, Hakainde Hichilema. Hichilema faces charges of treason - a crime punishable by death in Zambia - for allegedly attempting to block a motorcade in which President Lungu was a part of.

The international community must not be silent on what is happening in Zambia. As the DA, we stand with the people of Zambia, and the silenced opposition parties, against this blow to democracy.

South Africa must work with its neighbors to protect democracy because , in Africa, a threat to democracy for some is a threat to democracy for all.

The DA will continue to advocate for the advancement of vibrant, competitive, multiparty democracy, the rule of law and the entrenchment of human rights and free speech across Africa

Mmusi Maimane

Leader of the Democratic Alliance

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