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The Democratic Alliance (DA) has urged South Africa’s International Relations and Co-operations Minister, Maite Nkoane-Mashabane, to intervene over the recent arrest of Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema on treason charges, said a report over the weekend.
The treason charges relate to Hichilema’s convoy allegedly refusing to give way to President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade on a main road in the west of the country last week.
Hichilema’s arrest has fanned political tensions in Zambia, where the United Party for National Development (UPND) refuses to accept last year’s election result when President Lungu retained power.
Hichilema, known as “HH”, has been denied access to lawyers, his party has said, calling for supporters to protest outside court at the hearing due on Tuesday.
Treason is a non-bailable offence in Zambia, with a minimum jail term of 15 years and a maximum sentence of the death penalty.
Hichilema and five party aides have also been charged with breaking the Highway Code and use of insulting language.
Hichilema was arrested after more than 100 armed police raided his house outside Lusaka early on Tuesday.
The UPND criticised the raid as “barbaric” after Hichilema’s wife and children were trapped inside and choked by tear gas.
In a statement, the DA said that it was “deeply concerned” over reports that Hichilema’s health was deteriorating, reports the Zambian Observer.
The opposition party urged Nkoana-Mashabane to ensure that the Zambian authorities granted access to independent medical personnel to assess Hichilema’s health and to ensure that his human rights were being upheld.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane further condemned all actions which would seek to disrespect due process and the rule of law.
“If the ANC-led government is still committed to a human rights-based foreign policy, which they should be, then the minister needs to make a statement against these actions and needs to put pressure on her Zambian counterparts to release Mr Hichilema.
“No country can be truly democratic when opposition parties are not free to challenge government power and to hold those in power accountable,” DA spokesperson Stevens Mokgalapa was quoted as saying.Source: News 24