Zambia – Opposition MPs Suspended

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As the leader of the opposition remains in jail the government suspends over forty opposition MPS. 

On June 12th the Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini suspended 48 United Party for National Development (UPND) MPs for 30 days. The MPs had boycotted President Edgar Lungu‘s address to the National Assembly.

They refused to attend address in March as they argued Mr Lungu was not the legitimate winner of the election in 2016.

“Let me inform you that your conduct of boycotting the President’s address as a way of protest was unjustified and unbefitting the conduct of an MP. The President is the Head of State and Government, and you took oaths of allegiance,” Matibini said.

As they were suspended the Times of Zambia reported that the UPND MPs were directed to immediately leave the House, described as a ‘walk of shame’ as Patriotic Front MPs burst into laughter.

This is the latest in recent targeting of opposition members. At the end of May imprisoned opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema returned to court facing charges of treason.

Hichilema and five others were arrested on April 11th following an incident in which the convoy he was travelling in refused to give way to the presidential motorcade. He is accused of endangering the President’s life, although his lawyers argue the charges are politically motivated.

Legal gymnastics have kept Hichilema in prison and he has been moved from one Magistrate to another. Betty Malupenga is the third magistrate handling the case, reported Zambia Reports.

UPND_campaign_rallyUPND Campaign Rally 2016 – CC

Since losing elections in January 2015 Hichilema had, according to Zambia Reports, endeavoured to ‘carry himself like a man with official state power’. He repeatedly picked fights with President Lungu and other government members, labelled the judiciary corrupt and scolded the police as incompetent. Although commentators say that this is his right as a political person.

Speaker Matibini warned Hichilema and other leaders of political parties and the general public, that their comments relating to matters of the House should be made within the confines of the law. He said if they continued to do so, they risked being liable to be prosecuted, reported the Times of Zambia.

The Zambian government has also faced criticism from the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops over the handling of the case against Hichilema, who warned that country is slipping towards ‘dictatorship’, reported BBC News

Find out more in the Africa Research Bulletin:

ZAMBIA: Hakainde Hichilema Arrested
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 4, Pp. 21396C–21397A

ZAMBIA: Re-Election Bid?
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 54, Issue. 1, Pp. 21287C–21288C

ZAMBIA: Information Minister Dismissed
Political, Social & Cultural Series
Vol. 53, Issue. 11, Pp. 21209C–21210A

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