Lusaka - Around 50 Zambian police on Sunday blocked an opposition rally in a slum in the capital Lusaka after they said too few officers were available to ensure order.
The officers in riot gear turned away opposition supporters going to the rally in Kanyama, a Lusaka slum, claiming most officers were sent to guard a football match at the other end of the country.
But opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema slammed the excuse as illogical because the game had been played on Saturday.
“If they are saying there are few police officers because of the match, where did all those 50 or so police that surrounded the grounds come from?” he told around 200 supporters at his United Party for National Development (UPND) headquarters.
Lusaka province police chief Solomon Jere earlier said that despite a court order allowing the rally they could not man the site.
“This meeting is illegal and whoever will be found at the meeting will be met by the wrath of the law,” he said in a statement.
Most officers were in Ndola, 275km north of the capital, where the national football team played an Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Uganda on Saturday, he said.
But Hichilema accused President Michael Sata of blocking the gathering.
“Zambia under Sata is becoming a police state. This is unacceptable because the court granted us a go-ahead on Friday after the police started behaving funny,” he said.
Opposition figures have accused Sata of targeting opponents since he assumed office last September.
Hichilema was arrested in August on charges of publishing false information. - Sapa-AFP