United Party for National Development (UPND) Spokesperson Charles Kakoma says arresting an opposition leader for criticising the President is unthinkable in a democratic country.

And Kakoma says President Edgar Lungu’s authoritarian rule and intolerance to divergent views is taking the country on a destructive path.

In a statement yesterday, Kakoma noted that the arrest of opposition UPP leader Saviour Chishimba for the offense of defamation of the President was evidence that opposition political parties had been set up for destruction.

“The arrest of UPP president, Saviour Chishimba, is a testimony that all opposition parties in Zambia are earmarked for destruction by the PF and Edgar Lungu. It is surprising that Mr Chishimba was arrested at a broadcasting station. He was on a tour of duty to exercise his constitutional right to express himself. That speaks volumes of how our freedoms have been endangered under the PF regime. Under Edgar Lungu, uttering any dissenting or opposing views puts the general citizenry at the risk of imprisonment or arbitrary arrest for long period of times,” Kakoma stated.

“This persecution by prosecution is a tool by the PF to intimidate opposing voices. This is the first time in the history of this great nation, that two opposition party presidents have been arrested simultaneously, over trumped up charges. In a democratic country, it is unthinkable to arrest an opposition leader for criticising the President. Many democratic countries have done away with archaic laws such as ‘defamation of the President’ because they go against people’s constitutional rights of freedom of expression.”

Kakoma stated that Chishimba was being punished for being bold enough to disclose the rampant corruption and violation of the Constitution that had characterised the PF rule.

“The levels of dictatorship being exhibited by the PF are unprecedented and are certainly putting this country on a very destructive path. Saviour Chishimba is paying for telling the naked truth and for standing up for those that are victims of the oppressive PF Government. He is being arrested for being outspoken and for disclosing a lot of dirt that is currently taking place in the PF government,” he stated.

“Chishimba has been in the forefront of exposing the rampant corruption and violation of the constitution by Edgar Lungu and his government. This is obviously what has led to this questionable and unwarranted arrest. The PF doesn’t condone those with opinions contrary to theirs. Everyone is expected to agree and think like them.”

And Kakomba observed that the manner in which Chishimba was arrested showed how intolerant to criticism the PF government had become.

“The manner in which Mr Chishimba was arrested in Hollywood style during a live TV interview, shows how intolerant to criticism PF has become. We therefore demand for his immediate and unconditional release. We know for a fact that this is mere persecution and affront on his rights and freedom of expression,” stated Kakoma.

“We call upon all citizens of good will to condemn these institutionalised flagrant violations of people’s rights, and further demand that Mr Chishimba and all prisoners of conscience detained around the Country be unconditionally set free.”