Efforts by Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu to reach out to opposition leaders in South Africa “to understand their concerns about Zambia” were slapped down by the DA and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF).
The Zambian High Commission in Pretoria said Lungu “summoned” the leaders of the two parties for a meeting after they made “remarks against Zambia”.
In a statement, the commission said Lungu had “expressed concern that the two opposition parties appeared to disrespect the sovereignty of Zambia and had interfered in the domestic affairs of countries such as Zambia, Swaziland, Lesotho and Zimbabwe”.
Emmanuel Mwamba, Zambia’s High Commissioner to South Africa, said his office had started preparing for the proposed meetings.
The opposition parties spoke out about the detention and trial of opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, who was jailed in April on treason charges after being accused of failing to make way for Lungu’s motorcade.
Charges against Hichilema were dropped this week after apparent outside pressure, and he was released.
The EFF said its commander in chief, Julius Malema, “will not meet Lungu on a summon. Neither will he meet him on short notice.”
Party spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said: “Lungu ought to arrange a proper meeting if he is authentic about meeting the EFF leadership regarding his autocratic, dictatorial as well as egocentric actions regarding the leader of the opposition in Zambia.
“We will always welcome a properly and respectfully arranged meeting because we will be willing to say these things directly to him,” he added.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane, who was barred from entering Zambia in May to attend Hichilema’s trial, confirmed that the high commission had contacted his office about the meeting.
“I will only agree to meet with President Lungu if he publicly commits to a programme that works to restore Zambia’s democracy,” he said, adding an apology should be made to Hichilema.
He said Zambia was “fast heading towards a dictatorship” under Lungu and urged attendees of the Southern African Development Community summit in Pretoria this weekend to act against leaders such as Lungu.