President Edgar Lungu is reportedly receiving immense pressure from his Eastern Base inner circle and ethnic supremacist grouping, to abandon his intention to hold peace talks with the UPND President Hakainde Hichilema, warning him that this will make him lose his grip on power.
Leading the pressure is reportedly President Rupiah Banda, the ‘Daily Nation’ owner Richard Sakala, and Dr Canisius Banda a medical Doctor and former Vice President of the UPND, a party Hichilema heads.
During the incarceration of Mr Hichilema over trumped up charges of treason, Mr Rupiah Banda had publicly called upon the UPND President to recognize Lungu’s Presidency and drop his demand to have the elections petition heard, as a precondition to being released from prison.
In yesterday’s (4th September 2017) edition of the ‘Daily Nation’, the Newspaper quoted Dr Canisius Banda as saying that President Lungu must not proceed with the talks with Mr Hichilema because he is not repentant after being ‘favored’ by Lungu with a release from jail.
Like President Banda, Dr Banda had also earlier advised against releasing Hichilema from prison until he dropped his demands over the petition hearing and also recognise Lungu as the President.
The calls to drop the Commonwealth initiated talks seem to stem from Hakainde Hichilema’s successful tour of South Africa at the invitation of that Country’s leading DA opposition leader Mmusi Maimane. At a joint press conference with the DA leader, UPND President denounced the loss of basic freedoms in Zambia at the hands of Lungu, and also the arbitrary arrests without trial of his party supporters under the dreaded public order act, which has been reinforced by Lungu’s declaration of the State of Threatened Emergency.
This was viewed by Lungu’s supporters as ‘unpatriotic’ and contrary to the spirit and tone of reconciliation with which Hakainde spoke at the Anglican Cathedral of the Holy Cross prayers, that had been held to thank God for his release from prison.
Ironically the Police had a week earlier, barred the prayers from taking place at the instructions of the State but reversed the decision after it received widespread local and international condemnation.
It is generally believed that President Lungu’s ethinic base do not want Hichilema to reveal to the World his experiences in jail and the loss of freedoms and human rights in Zambia, but instead pay glowing tribute as a quid pro quo, to President Lungu for releasing him from jail over trumped up treason charges.
A Zambian former senior diplomat to West Africa described the attempts by Richard Sakala’s as desperate.
“This is cheap and very shallow by Richard Sakala.This dialogue is not for Hakainde Hichilema but for the common good of the Country.”