Maimane says current rot in Zambia due to flawed 2016 elections

The events that are currently unfolding in Zambia should be deeply concerning to those committed to democracy in Africa, says Mmusi Maimane, the leader of South Africa’ Democratic Alliance.
He writes:

A week ago, Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema was arrested and detained on charges of treason, the maximum punishment for which is death.
The excessive violence of the arrest, and the inhumane treatment that Hichilema has received in detention confirms the political motives behind these charges. The arbitrary arrest of political opponents is a hallmark of authoritarian regimes, which seek to systematically eliminate any potential threat to their rule. This is a reality that South Africans are all too familiar with given our history of political repression under apartheid minority rule.
The events that are currently unfolding in Zambia should be deeply concerning to those committed to democracy in Africa. The roots of this political crisis can be traced to the flawed election that President Edgar Lungu officially won in August 2016, following credible reports of the abuse of state media and public funds for the ruling party’s campaign, the shutting down of opposition newspapers, widespread voter intimidation and a lack of transparency in the vote counting process. In rubber-stamping this election, the international community – including election observer missions – missed an important opportunity to defend democracy and reject the abuse of power.
If elections are not substantively free and fair, they serve only to provide a false sense of legitimacy for undemocratic leaders. For decades, the bar for African elections has been set too low, allowing autocrats to get away with anything short of outright violence and to erect a façade of democratic rule despite fraud, manipulation and suppression.
For too long, business leaders, diplomats and international organisations have held back from criticism of African leaders who seek to quash opposition and impose their rule, out of fear of retaliation or a belief that more work can be done from within the system. What is happening in Zambia, however, is the natural consequence of this logic. It takes courage to stand up and defend democracy, and to call authoritarianism by its name. But this is the only way to ensure a truly free and open society.
It is time for democrats in Africa to speak out. Democracy is a necessary condition for sustainable development, for the protection of fundamental human rights and the creation of economic conditions which bring people dignity. We cannot accept anything less – because without it, we are all vulnerable.
In South Africa, as in Zambia and other countries, we are witnessing the erosion of the rule of law, the abuse of state resources and political power, and the circumvention of the democratic process in ways both explicit and subtle. It is becoming increasingly difficult for opponents of powerful ruling parties to make their voices heard and to hold governments accountable for their actions. If this trend continues, the future of democracy and development on the continent will be in jeopardy. As a result, apathy is no longer an option.
Without a doubt, the Zambian government will try every method of diverting attention and blame – alleging Western conspiracy theories, invoking national security, resorting to populist rhetoric and ethnic mobilisation. These are the tools in the autocrat’s playbook. It is up to principled African leaders in politics and business, diplomats and international organisations, civil society and the people themselves to expose these tricks for what they are and reject them resolutely.
Like many of our brothers and sisters in Africa, South Africans fought long and hard for the right to vote. We must play a leading role in the ongoing fight to protect it. Rest assured, the Democratic Alliance will continue to take a principled stance, to set a higher bar for African democracy, and to fight for better governance and human rights on the continent. DM
Mmusi Maimane MP is the leader of the Democratic Alliance.


  • comment-avatar
    Chanda 10 months

    Our Electoral Laws provide that when u have an Election Dispute u Petition the Results. This is what HH and GBM did and the Petition is with Concourt. The Zambian current political instability will not be solved by charging HH with Treason and jailing him and by declaring a State of Emergency. Lungu is dealing with symptoms and not the Root Cause of the problem. The Root cause of the Tension is the 2016 Disputed and Petitioned Election. Any Dialogue must start with the Presidential Petition. Lungu claims to have won that he Election and what the Petitioners and the Voters are requesting is that Lungu proves in Court how he won the Election. By refusing to exonerate himself in Court as an Accused Vote Thief, Lungu has strengthened the perception that indeed he stole the Election.If indeed Lungu stole the Election should he be recognized as a Legitimate President? If we allow this then we are giving an open Licence to Incumbent Presidents to steal future Elections with impunity. There wont be any point in voting in future elections and our nascent Constitutional Democracy will be dead. # Let the Petition be heard at ICJ so that Zambia can move on in peace.

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    johnes 10 months

    Bakapokola they have tuned lungu to be kalesa akupepa nokusamwa peka pakushindika waisanga mulimwamoneni .police officers pls do yo duties as police service

  • comment-avatar
    Noonde 10 months

    Mmusi Maimane is 100% correct. The Root cause of Zambia’s problems is the 2016 flawed and Petitioned Elections. The only viable solution to this problem is to hear,determine and dispose off the Petition. Imprisoning and killing the Petitioners and declaring a State of Emergency will not solve Lungu’s Illegitimacy problem. The AU and SADC need to intervene in the Zambian Election Dispute as a matter of Irgency. Let the Petition be heard in Court otherwise Zambia will become another Zimbabwe. Zuma and South Africa cannot afford political and economic instability in Zambia as South Africa will have a flood of Zambian Economic and Political Refugees shortly. Its in South Africa’s interest to have the Petition heard in Court and declare the Winner of the 2016 Election and Duly Elected. The AU and SADC should attend to this conflict without further delays and b4 Zambia is engulfed in a Civil War.

  • comment-avatar
    Scotchcast 10 months

    Maimane you are not a factor, keep on working as an alliance with Malema

  • comment-avatar
    sam fourie 10 months

    You’re on the money musi

    Let this useless leaders like Jameson listen

  • comment-avatar
    Thozi Makhetla 10 months

    Maimane’s analysis is spot on! As an opposition party in a democratic country, he knows he is protected by the constitution to freely express his opinions on matters that concerns the freedoms of a people. You think you can muzzle him like you do in your dictatorial country?

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    jabu 10 months

    Take care of your Zuma ….Mr. Coconut. You were hired to protect the interests of white monopoly capital. That is what you defend in South AFRICA. You know nothing about Zambian democracy boy. Deal with your Mbete and be in the front demonstrating while your white bosses are enjoying coffee in farms of Capetown winelands.

    • comment-avatar
      Paula 10 months

      Spoken like a person who never lived through apartheid indeed. Let the man enjoy his freedom of speech. Jabu open your eyes man! Democracy no longer exists in Zambia.

    • comment-avatar
      KwaBulozi 10 months

      Another cattle herding Zulu retard.

      White monopoly capital my foot! The Guptas are the ones who run South Africa. No surprise since Indians have higher IQs compared to you chaps who just know how top loot, rape and kill.

      Lets see how Gigaba and Zuma will wreck the economy – Zimbabwe Reloaded.