Zambian President Edgar Lungu. File picture: Rogan Ward/Reuters

Johannesburg - Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane says he will only consent to a meeting with Zambian President Edgar Lungu if Lungu publicly commits to restoring democracy in Zambia.
   
"I have noted Zambian President Edgar Lungu’s public appeal to schedule a meeting with me this weekend while he is in South Africa attending the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit in Pretoria. The Zambian High Commission has also made contact with my office to formally request such a meeting," Maimane said on Saturday.

"I will only agree to meet with President Lungu if he publicly commits to a programme that works to restore Zambia’s democracy. This must include lifting the 90-day state of emergency; reconvening parliament; restoring the independence of the justice system; ensuring the media is free from suppression and intimidation; and ending the oppressive treatment of the opposition in Zambia."

"Furthermore, an apology must be made to Mr Hakainde Hichilema, the leader of the opposition, who was arrested on trumped up treason charges and detained for almost four months in the most inhumane conditions – only for the charges to be dropped as baseless," Maimane said.

Under Lungu, Zambia was fast heading towards a dictatorship. 

The country was still under a state of emergency, characterised by “increased security measures” and the suppression of free speech and press freedom. 

Opposition party members had been arrested en masse, and opposition members were still not present in parliament.

"Part of my work as leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) and chairperson of the Southern African Platform for Democratic Change (SAPDC) is to work constructively with leaders, from both governing and opposition parties of democratic states in the SADC region. That said, we must ensure that those who we work with are committed to democratic practices such as human rights, constitutionalism, and the rule of law," Maimane said.

Having consulted with Hichilema and the United Party for National Development (UPND), Maimane said he was well aware of the deteriorating state of democracy in Zambia, and would constructively engage all sides genuinely committed to reversing this trend.

The SADC summit, hosted in South Africa, presented an opportune moment for the South African government to condemn and act against leaders in the region - and across the continent - who continued to undermine democracy and commit human rights violations.

Africa’s prosperity would only be fully realised when "big men" humble themselves by submitting to the institutions and laws of democracy, and work towards building for their people and future generations, Maimane said.