As Dictator Edgar Chagwa Chaima Lungu was marching like Tom and Gerry infront of his troops, his arch rival and sworn enemy (for that’s how Lungu sees it) Hakainde Hichilema, was being awarded the prestigious African Freedom international annual Friedrich Neumann Foundation prize in Pretoria.
Hichilema was giving his acceptance speech in South Africa, when heavily armed Zambian Police swung into action and brandishing a warrant of search in their hands, raided the opposition leader’s office in the peripheral of the chaotic Lusaka central business district.
The search predictably yielded nothing but a lot of confused questions in the minds of Zambians as to what this time around, was in the mind of Lungu’s Government. All this after having emerged a few days earlier from a Christian Pentecostal prayer rally of ‘peace and reconciliation’.
The warrant signed by a magistrate indicated that the Zambian Police were looking for ‘offensive’ weapons that they believed were hidden somewhere in the facility.
Police raids against Zambia’s biggest opposition party buildings are not a new thing especially that earlier in the year, hundreds of heavily armed Police special forces wearing balaclavas, conducted a mid night blitzkrieg on Hakainde Hichilema’s family home, breaking down doors and windows and hurling tonnes of nerve gas literally leaving a trail of destruction along the way.
The raid led to the arrest, torture and illegal detention of the UPND leader for 127 days under inhuman conditions where he doubled the use of a bucket as wash basin and latrine.
Hakainde came out of his illegal detention after the intervention of the British Commonwealth and the Zambian Catholic Bishops, declaring that he had forgiven his jailers. Many believe this resilience and fighting spirit is what has ultimately led the Friedrich Nuemann Foundation award him the prestigious prize.
The raid on the UPND offices that coincidenced with his Hichilema’s Freedom award ceremony is being viewed as dictator Edgar Lungu’s clearest sign yet of his arrogance and unwillingness to take part in the Commonwealth led peace negotiations with the UPND leader. The search is a possible attempt to paint Hichilema as the ‘terrorist’ who is preparing for an armed insurrection than a peaceful negotiated settlement. Fortunately no ‘offensive’ weapons were found in Hichilema’s town office as there was nothing to find in the first place. This was another one of dictator Lungu’s consipiracy theories and as in the past it is likely to boomerang in his face. Sources familiar and close to the Zambian Police believe that raids on selected senior UPND officials may continue in the near future.