Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema is in South Africa for a three-day visit, during which he will be attending, amongst others, a question session addressed by President Jacob Zuma in Parliament on Thursday.
Hichilema arrived in Cape Town on Wednesday afternoon where he is set to be hosted by Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane, who was prevented from entering Zambia in May when he wanted to attend his court case.
Hichilema was recently released from prison after four months and seven days, where he was held on charges of treason because, it was alleged he obstructed Zambian President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade.
Maimane’s chief of staff, Geordin Hill-Lewis, said on Wednesday that Hichilema came to celebrate his release with the DA.
“We wanted to have a celebration on his release from prison, where he was treated disgustingly, and of which the details are only starting to emerge now,” Hill-Lewis said.
Pressure on governing parties
“We wanted to have a celebration with him but the impression we had was that we wouldn’t be allowed into Zambia, so we arranged for him to come here.”
Hill-Lewis said Hichilema would be attending and addressing the DA’s caucus meeting on Thursday morning, ahead of the sitting in Parliament.
He is also set to attend the DA’s federal executive meeting on Friday.
Hichilema’s United Party for National Development is part of a network of opposition parties in the region, organised under the Southern African Partnership for Democratic Change, of which Maimane is the chairperson.
The network is meant to give opposition parties a voice in the region, and it was also used in this instance to effect pressure on governing parties to respect human rights.
Maimane, together with Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema, were invited by Lungu for a meeting when he attended the recent Southern African Development Community summit in Pretoria to talk about their criticism against Hichilema’s arrest.
Both Maimane and Malema declined, with Maimane saying he would only agree to such a meeting when Lungu committed to democracy.