Zambia sends opposition leader to maximum security jail

Zambia’s main opposition chief, Hakainde Hichilema taking to high court pending trial.

Zambia’s main opposition chief, Hakainde Hichilema has been transferred to a maximum security prison ahead of his trial for treason.

His party, the United Party for National Development (UPND) on Friday confirmed that its leader had been transferred from the Lusaka prisons to the Kukobeko Maximum Security Prison in Kabwe.

A Magistrate on Thursday ruled that the economist and successful businessman and five others should be tried by a High Court on charges of treason.

Without specifying which particular court will sit on the case, magistrate David Simusamba ruled that “I hereby commit the accused persons forthwith to the high court for trial.”

Defending democracy
Hichilema has openly stated that he was ready for the trial and according to a post on his Facebook, he was even ready to die in prison because many others will rise to defend democracy in Zambia.

‘‘We are only concerned about one thing; the freedom of this country. Our spirits are intact, we might look weary from the physical point of view but be assured that our spirits are intact.

‘‘We do not know when we are going to be released or if at all we will be released, but that is not bothering us, all we know is that what we are fighting for is worth for us to die if that is what it means.

‘‘And we are not worried about death either, because there are a million others who will carry on with the fight for a proper democracy to work in Zambia,’’  his post read in parts.

Arrest and charges
The UPND leader was arrested in April during a police raid on his home in the capital Lusaka. Hichilema was said to have endangered the life of the president when his motorcade refused to give way to a presidential convoy months back.

He, along with five others, were charged with three offenses: treason, disobeying lawful orders and using insulting language. The state prosecutor dropped the second charge whiles the magistrate struck out the third citing incoherent and untruthful testimonies by police officers.

His lawyers previously said the case should not proceed to a high court because the officer who issued the trial papers had no authority to do so. With the current development, a trial date would be set by a high court judge.

Zambia, a major copper producer has been in a politically tensed state following disputed elections held in August last year.

The UPND have maintained that the polls were rigged in favour of President Edgar Lungu and the ruling Patriotic Front (PF). They have however failed to overturn the results through the courts.

africanews./Mercy Chukwudiebere