The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) on Tuesday marched to the Zambian High Commission in Pretoria, demanding urgent steps to foster democracy in Lusaka, respect for human rights and press freedom.
“Zambia is a country which was once a safe haven for South Africans fleeing oppression under apartheid. Numsa will not be silenced while that country degenerates into a dictatorial state. To be frank, it is our view today that the Lungu government in Zambian is no different from what apartheid government used to do in South Africa,” Numsa president Andrew Chirwa said during the picket.
“We have observed that since the elections of 2016, Zambia has deteriorated into an authoritarian regime. It is common knowledge that the elections in that country were not free and fair. Since Mr [President] Edgar Lungu contentiously assumed power, there has been a steady increase in brutality and tyranny, and an erosion of democratic freedom in that country.”
He said current day Zambia was effectively “a dictatorship”.
“The world must not wait until mass murders take place to arrest the fast deteriorating situation in Zambia. The time to act is now. It is in the best interest of all Zambians, and the people of Africa that the current situation in Zambia is arrested and measures to restore democracy are taken urgently,” said Chirwa.
Among other demands, Chirwa said Numsa wanted an end to “violence and brutality” being meted against Lungu’s opposition in Zambia.
“We demand that the fake state of emergency which Mr Lungu called for, be immediately rescinded. We see this as an apartheid tact to silence dissent and arrest opponents in that country. We demand the withdrawal of the trumped up treason charges against the UPND (United Party for National Development) leader Hakainde Hichilema, and for him and all other political prisoners to be released with immediate effect. This man has been arrested for months now, being charged with treason, for what is actually just a traffic offence,” said Chirwa.
He said Numsa’s march to the Zambian embassy did not mean South Africa did not have its fair share of problems.
“We do have our own problems. We have our own special kind of a dictator who is President [Jacob] Zuma. He has not arrived at the level of Lungu yet, but the signs are there, he is going there. We have our own challenges of institutions of governance which have been stolen on behalf of the Gupta family in this country. We have a public protector [Advocate Busi Mkhwebane] who is a Popeye. Today she says this, tomorrow she says that,” said Chirwa.