Zambian police plan to question opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema, a week after another political opponent of President Michael Sata was arrested.
Hichilema, president of the United Party for National Development, will be interrogated on Jan. 13, Rae Hamoonga, a spokesman for the police in the capital, Lusaka, said today. The police aren’t targeting the opposition, he said. Hichilema couldn’t be contacted on his mobile phone.
“It’s in our mandate to call him and ask him to appear for questioning,” Hamoonga said in a phone interview, while declining to disclose why Hichilema was being examined. “The police have a mandate of maintaining law and order.”
Police in Africa’s biggest copper producer arrested Frank Bwalya on Jan. 6, the second opposition leader to be detained in five months for allegedly defaming Sata. The president is trying to bolster his position within the ruling Patriotic Front party after failing to deliver on 2011 election promises, including a new constitution, according to Control Risks Group LLC.
“The government has increasingly repressed the opposition -- using both constitutional and unconstitutional means, including arbitrary arrests -- to strengthen its position and undermine its critics,” Control Risks said in a note yesterday.
Mwansa Kapeya, government spokesman and Information Minister, didn’t answer a call to his mobile phone. Sata’s spokesman didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
Sata’s waning health has led to a succession battle before general elections in 2016, Clare Allenson, an analyst at Eurasia Group Ltd., said in a note on Jan. 8. Divisions in the Patriotic Front will probably deepen after Defense Minister Geoffrey Mwamba quit in December over opposition by Sata, 76, to the selection of a traditional leader, she said.
Bwalya, president of the Alliance for a Better Zambia and a former Sata supporter, was freed on bail on Jan. 7. He was arrested over comments made in a radio interview in Kasama, about 650 kilometers (400 miles) northeast of Lusaka, Mary Chikwanda, a provincial police spokeswoman, said at the time, without specifying his allegedly defaming remarks.
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