27/06/2017 17:22 SAST | Updated 27/06/2017 17:22 SAST

Zambian Opposition Leader Still In Good Spirits In Prison

Hakainde Hichilema posts on Facebook that life in prison is not easy

Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema.
Hakainde Hichilema's FB page
Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema.

Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, who was arrested in April for failing to give right of way to President Edgar Lungu's convoy, says he is in "good spirits", despite being kept in custody at a high security prison.

Writing on his Facebook page, Hichilema (55) said: "We would like to assure you that we are alive and still in good spirits, despite numerous measures aimed at killing our spirit."

He added that Zambia's democracy was being "abrogated every day, but we can assure you that we are here to address this cancer that is eating the country alive while we watch".

Hichilema, a wealthy businessman populary known as HH, is the leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND). He has been at odds with Lungu for years. Hichilema claims that the incumbent has not legally won the 2016 presidential election. Despite winning this case in court, Lungu has shown to be very tense about such allegations.

In the latest development, Hichilema was charged with treason. He is accused of having blocked Lungu's motorcade with his own convoy on the way to a traditional ceremony in the western province in April.

They said that Hichilema's motorcade did not yield after presidential security guards signalled for it to get out of the way. The maximum sentence for treason in Zambia is death.

The opposition leader was moved to a maximum security prison early this month and it was unclear when he would be back in court.

About a week earlier South African opposition leader Mmusi Maimane intended to visit Hichilema's trial. He was refused entry into Zambia and "within an hour of arrival, I was deported back to South Africa," Maimane said at the time.

High Commissioner Emmanuel Mwamba later said: "DA leader Mmusi Maimane was turned away from Zambia as his presence was going to undermine the sanctity, integrity and independence of the judiciary."

Maimane said that Hichilema was violently arrested more than six weeks ago for allegedly attempting to block Zambian President Edgar Lungu's motorcade.

"The violent nature of his arrest, and the inhumane treatment that Hichilema has received in detention, confirms the political motives behind these charges.

"I have no doubt these charges were manufactured by the Zambian government to intimidate those who are opposed to its oppressive rule, which is an abuse of power and a serious disregard of the rule of law."