In this video, South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance supporters join Zambia’s UPND protesters at the High Commission in Pretoria demanding an explanation on why the Zambian authorities blocked and harassed Mmusi Maimane at the airport in Lusaka yesterday.

But Zambia’s High Commissioner to South Africa Emmanuel Mwamba has informed the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) that Maimane was turned away from Zambia as his presence was going to undermine the sanctity, integrity and independence of the Judiciary.

DA supporters joined Zambia’s UPND protesters at the High Commission in Pretoria with placards denouncing the Zambian government for the undemocratic deed.

Maimane told a local and international journalist at a press briefing at “the Embassy that the Zambian government clearly feels threatened by Mr Hichilema and his party, the UPND”.

“Yesterday, on Africa [Freedom] Day, I intended to visit Lusaka to attend the treason trial of my good friend, Mr Hakainde Hichilema, the Leader of the United Party for National Development (UPND) in Zambia. Mr Hichilema was violently arrested over six weeks ago and faces charges of treason – a crime punishable by death in Zambia. The violent nature of his arrest, and the inhumane treatment that Hichilema has received in detention, confirms the political motives behind these charges. I have no doubt these charges were manufactured by the Zambian government to intimidate those who are opposed to its oppressive rule, which is an abuse of power and a serious disregard of the rule of law,” Maimane charged.

A picture Maimane took at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport before the fracas

“The Zambian government clearly feels threatened by Mr Hichilema and his party, the UPND, who have been working tirelessly in their attempts to stop the decay of democracy in Zambia. Mr Hichilema is also a founding member of the Southern African Partnership for Democratic Change (SAPDC), a body of opposition parties from across Southern Africa who are committed to securing democracy across the region, and which I am the current Chairman of.”

He said that his treatment at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport when he arrived in Zambia spoke volumes of where Zambia was standing politically.

“I decided to attend the trial of Mr Hichilema in order to show solidarity with him and with the project of building and deepening democracy that we are engaged in across the continent. In respecting the Zambian government’s wishes, I honoured their call to refrain from visiting Mr Hichilema in prison, as the government claims there exists a court order preventing such visitation by members of the public. It should be noted that the Lungu administration even blocked Zambia’s founding father, President Kenneth Kaunda, from visiting Mr Hichilema in prison. It is a truly tragic collapse of a once stable democracy,” he said.

“The visit was entirely legal and in line with the required prescripts. On arrival, members of the Zambian Police boarded the aircraft and aggressively confronted me and the delegation I was travelling with. I was not allowed off the aircraft and was told I was not welcome in Zambia. When I demanded reasons for being refused entry, I was told that the authorities are not required to furnish me with a reason. In the altercation, my private cellphone was confiscated, along with other mobile devices. Within an hour of arrival, I was deported back to South Africa.”

He asked that country’s president Jacob Zuma to speak out against the fall of democracy in Zambia.

“Moreover, it is now time that President Jacob Zuma and the South African government speaks out against the anti-democratic practices occurring in Zambia. South Africa ought to be the leader on the continent in protecting and promoting human rights, democracy and the rule of law. We call on President Zuma to show his concern and speak out against such actions by fellow leaders on the continent,” said Maimane.

But press secretary at the High Commission Naomi Nyawali said in a statement that High Commissioner Emmanuel Mwamba met with DIRCO officials and explained that Maimane was going to mount pressure on the Zambian court system if he attended the treason case involving UPND leader.

“Government was concerned with Mr Maimane’s and the DA’s media statements prior to his visit to Zambia that stated that his party would pressure the Courts of the Law to release Zambia’s opposition leader, Mr Hakainde Hichilema who is currently undergoing a treason trial. Mr Maimane alleged that Mr Hichilema was facing trumped up charges and therefore he would mobilize fellow regional opposition sister parties and leaders to pressure the Zambian courts to release Mr Hichilema,” Mwamba said.

“The Zambian High Commission had earlier advised Mr Maimane to reschedule his visit until this and other concerns were resolved but [he] clearly turned down such an advise. Zambian authorities advised Mr Maimane to return to Johannesburg upon landing at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport (KKIA) at 17:40hrs.”

Mwamba said Zambia was a sovereign state and could not allow external interference into its governance system.

“Zambia as a sovereign state, can determine persons to allow entry into the country. Zambia continues to have mutual and admirable diplomatic relations and cooperations with South Africa based on the historical, economic and social ties between the two countries,” said Mwamba.

“Zambia is South Africa’s top ten trading partner and the volume of movement of people, goods and services between the two states is one of the highest in the region. This is also demonstrated by South African Airways that takes about 35 flights a week to Zambia, besides other carriers. Zambia’s democratic credentials and processes remain admirable in Africa and the respect for the rule of the law is at the heart of its democratic growth.”