By REBECCA MUSHOTA
and KASONDE KASONDE –
PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has told the European Union (EU) that he is open to dialogue over matters relating to the arrest of oppositionleader Hakainde Hichilema but could not do so without interfering with the operations of the judiciary.
The President said this when he held a meeting with European ambassadors accredited to Zambia at State House yesterday, led by the head of the EU mission to Zambia Alessandro Mariani.
Other envoys that were part of the meeting were from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic and France.
President Edgar Lungu’s Special Assistant for Press and Public Relations Amos Chanda who briefed the media after the meeting said the President told envoys he was open to dialogue on matters of governance with the EU.
The European Parliament had earlier in the day released a joint motion of resolution after its plenary sitting on the case of incarcerated Hichilema who is appearing in courts on treason charges, and calling on the need for fairness, diligence and transparency and the application of the law.
“Of course the question of Mr Hichilema’s arrest came up and the President said there was nothing he could do about that without endangering the independence of the Judiciary,” Mr Chanda said.
He said Mr Lungu would let the due process of the law run its course.
On the EU’s point that Zambia’s good governance reputation was being tarnished, President Lungu said that all those responsible for tarnishing the country’s good image should stop doing so.
Mr Chanda said the EU team had insisted that as friends of Zambia, they had a duty to ensure that there was dialogue on political matters between Government and the EU as well as Government and the UPND.
The EU said the recent activities in Zambia had tarnished the image of the country as a nation that upheld a good governance record.
The EU also said that after monitoring the 2016 elections they were fully aware that President Lungu was duly elected and it would encourage all stakeholders to recognise that fact.
In its statement, the EU Parliament called on Zambian authorities to conduct a prompt, impartial and thorough investigation into the alleged ill-treatment of Mr Hakainde during his detention and for peaceful and constructive dialogue between the ruling Patriotic Front and the UPND in order to restore political trust and stability.
It also said it backed the initiative of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Zambia and other civil society organisations calling for peaceful dialogue between opposing parties.
And Foreign Affairs Minister Harry Kalaba says Zambia will continue embracing good governance in a bid to remain a trusted and stable democracy.
Mr Kalaba said Zambia would continue to observe the rule of the law regardless of who was involved.
He said in the recent past, top Government officials at ministerial level have found themselves on the wrong side of the law in Zambia and President Lungu had done nothing to shield them regardless of party affiliation, a clear demonstration that he wants justice to prevail.
Mr Kalaba said this during his high-level interaction with the Swedish Foreign Office in Stockholm this week, according to Zambia’s Charge d’ Affaires at the Zambian Embassy in Sweden Mr Anthony Mukwita.
He said Zambia’s reputation as a country of law and order shall remain jealously guarded under President Edgar Lungu such that any efforts to tarnish it would be frustrated.
“President Edgar Lungu has categorically stated that there shall be a clear distinction and separation between the judiciary, legislative and administration in order to maintain democracy,” Mr Kalaba said.
He said the President appreciated the stellar record that Zambia enjoyed internationally and was determined to guard its reputation for good governance jealously.
And PF Kasama Member of Parliament Kelvin Sampa has said he was disappointed with the biased report by the EU Parliament, stating it was wrong to take a position based on biased information on a sovereign State such as Zambia.
“The EU Parliament would be interested to know that there have been serious delusions on the part of opposition Hichilema’s sympathisers including his lawyers that the human rights of their client and his co-accused are being violated. This is a political assertion and not a legal one,” he said.
Mr Sampa said the EU Parliament should respect the Judiciary of Zambia and that Zambia was a nation of laws and its demand for the release of Mr Hichilema was an obstruction of justice.