Opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema has another issue to fight as Zambia treason charges were filed against him on Monday April 10, for allegedly obstructing President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade on a main road, according to police.
On Saturday President Edgar Lungu had passed through Mongu – 500km west of the capital, Lusaka – and his motorcade was obstructed because Hichilema’s convoy refused to give way, police said.
“The opposition leader disobeyed police orders to give way to the presidential motorcade in an attempt to put the life of the republican president in danger,” police chief Kakoma Kanganja said on Wednesday.
Zambia treason is a non bailable offense which means the person charged with such act cannot apply for bail, with a minimum jail term of 15 years and a maximum sentence of the death penalty.
“After that, we are going to take appropriate action in the interest of our client,” said the lawyer of Hichilema’s lawyer Jack Mwiimbu who is waiting for his client to appear in court.
“He is still detained in police cells at Lilayi but he is in high spirits. He has always known that the PF have always wanted to charge him with a non-bailable offence, so he is not shocked,” he further added.
The UPND has dismissed the charges and criticised the raid on Hichilema’s home as “barbaric” after the politician’s wife and children were trapped and choked by gas.
The two political leaders are old rivals, with Lungu beating Hichilema narrowly in two presidential elections. Lungu, the Patriotic Front (PF) leader only just won last August’s vote, which the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) says was rigged.
The charges were strongly condemned by the Non-Governmental Organisation Coordinating Council, an umbrella body of Zambian action groups. “Arresting opposition leaders on trumped-up charges is a recipe to heighten tension in an already volatile economic and political environment,” its chairwoman Sara Longwe said.
Zambia’s Human Rights Commission established under the constitution to investigate human rights violations, said in a statement that it hoped Hichilema would be treated fairly and brought before the courts of law without unreasonable delay.
It revealed that the opposition leader has said he doesn’t recognize Edgar Lungu presidency.