NANCY SIAME and STEVEN MVULA, Lusaka
GOVERNMENT says the release of United Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema and five others charged with treason is an indication of the judicial system’s independence
contrary to speculations that there was pressure from the international community to release Mr Hichilema.
And Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland says the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Lillian Siyunyi’s decision to enter a nolle prosequi in the treason case involving Mr Hichilema is reasonable and offers a unique opportunity for Zambia to move forward in the interest of all Zambians, and to achieve political cohesion and reconciliation through dialogue.
Speaking during a press briefing yesterday, chief government spokesperson Kampamba Mulenga said Government respects the decision of the courts as it does not interfere in their operations.
“The country has to move on now, we are happy that he has been released and we have not bowed to any pressure,” she said.
At the same briefing, special assistant to the President for press and public relations, Amos Chanda, said the President is still committed to dialogue with Mr Hichilema, but he will not force him.
Mr Chanda echoed Ms Mulenga’s statement that there were no invisible hands in the nolle prosequi involving Mr Hichilema.
“If there were any hands involved it is that of the lawyers,” he said.
And Ms Scotland said she is delighted to learn that the DPP has entered a nolle prosequi in the treason case involving Mr Hichilema and five others.
“The DPP must have weighed what was in the interest of justice and the public at this delicate point and decided that it was not in the interest of the public to prosecute the leader of the opposition, especially following the commitment to peace and harmony generously given by both President Lungu and Mr Hichilema to me during my recent visit to Zambia, and their pledge to engage in a constructive, responsible, and forward-looking dialogue,” she said.
She said in a statement issued yesterday by Commonwealth communications officer Natricia Duncan that now is an opportunity for Zambians and their leaders to show the world that the country remains a symbol of peace and a beacon of stability, unity and political tolerance in Africa and the Commonwealth.
Ms Scotland thanked President Lungu and Mr Hichilema for their commitment and resolve to move forward, put the past behind and look ahead to jointly and collectively address the issues that could have divided Zambians.
“I believe Zambians can rely on these leaders to wholeheartedly engage in this process and to craft a democratic, sustainable pathway which will lead the country not just to successful elections in 2021, but beyond,” she said.
She urged all stakeholders to work collaboratively and make this dialogue a reality, and use it as an opportunity to weave and reinforce a narrative of social harmony and mutual respect in Zambian politics.
Ms Scotland is happy that Ibrahim Gambari, a Nigerian scholar and diplomat, has accepted to be her dialogue envoy for Zambia.
“The Commonwealth will ensure that he travels to Zambia at the earliest convenience to start consultations with all relevant stakeholders, to support and progress discussions on the road map and other modalities for the dialogue,” she said.
And the European Union delegation welcomed the agreement on a process of dialogue reached between President Lungu and Hakainde Hichilema.
In a statement availed to the Daily Mail yesterday, the EU commended the consultative process towards reforms in preparation for the 2021 elections.
“The EU Delegation and the Heads of Mission of the EU Member States commend the joint commitment to an inclusive and consultative process towards reforms in preparation for the 2021 elections, facilitated by the good offices of the secretary-general of the Commonwealth, as well as the forward-looking approach taken by both to promote peace, stability and harmony in Zambia,” the statement reads in part.
The statement states that the EU will continue to stand by Zambia in the process of implementation of the said reforms, based on the principles of good governance and the rule of law, and in line with the recommendations of the 2016 EU Election Observation Mission.
House of Chiefs chairperson Chief Ntambu also welcomed the release of Mr Hichilema with hope that dialogue will now take effect between the two leaders.
“We are hopeful that tension will now be deflated,” he said.
And in welcoming Mr Hichilema’s release, Southern Royal Foundation of Chiefs chairperson Chief Chikanta urged those celebrating the opposition leader’s release to do so without breaking the law.
“People were uncertain about what will happen to him, now that is known, we want dialogue to start,” he said.
And Patriotic Front (PF) secretary general Davies Mwila welcomed the decision by the State to enter a nolle prosequi in the treason case.
Mr Mwila said the nolle prosequi demonstrates the independence of state institutions such as the DPP and judiciary.
“We must never lose sight of the rule of law which emphasises that no one is above the law. We further wish to remind that a nolle prosequi is not an acquittal. But most importantly for us in the PF is the independence of the DPP and judiciary demonstrated,” Mr Mwila said in a statement issued yesterday.
Mr Mwila said the action has proved wrong those who championed an agenda of tarnishing Zambia’s leadership and image to the world.
“This would never have happened in a dictatorship. We are not a dictatorship. We do not aspire to be one.
“We’ll never be one. We are democrats in word and deed”, Mr Mwila said.
Mr Mwila has since appealed to Mr Hichilema to pursue the call for talks.
“On a political level, people expect that Mr Hichilema will not abandon the commitment to democracy, but accept defeat and recognize the election and authority of President Lungu without reservations.
“We hope beyond this development, UPND will not fall for the agenda of anti-Zambia elements whose objective is to auction Zambia to the highest bidder.
“We expect the UPND to engage us in development politics as we march towards 2021 elections. No Zambian wants to live in the past. We have a future to collectively build and protect,” Mr Mwila said.