Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Tendai Biti says recent political events in Zambia are retrogressive.

And South Africa’s Democratic Alliance representative Stevens Mokgalapa says his party is concerned with President Edgar Lungu’s autocratic style of governance.

Biti, the president of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and current chairman of the coalition for democrats in Zimbabwe, said he was in Zambia to stand in solidarity with HH.

“I have arrived here this morning with a team of officials from the PDP to express our solidarity with president HH (Hakainde Hichilema) who is a personal friend of mine and also the democratic and peace-loving Zambians in what we consider a very difficult and trying time for Zambia. We’ve always considered Zambia as a country that has gone through its own transitions and those transitions have been successful,” Biti, who served as Zimbabwe’s Minister of Finance from February 2009 to September 2013, told journalists at Taj Pamodzi Hotel in Lusaka today.

“The most important transition that Zambia went through was the transition from the liberation movement of UNIP led by president Kenneth Kaunda into the era of MMD under president Chiluba, later on president Mwanawasa, later on president Banda and very importantly the power transfer between the MMD to president Sata.”

Biti said it was regrettable that Zambia was now known for the wrong reasons.

“So recent events, we find them very retrogressive, we find them as a reversal of the progressive gains that Zambia has made over the years. We find it regrettable that suddenly Zambia is now known for the wrong reasons; the banning of ‘political’ newspapers, the incarceration of opposition political leaders, the imposition of a [threatened] state of emergency, the ejectment of African leaders and visitors in your country. We think that is unacceptable and we pray that Zambians go back to their natural DNA which is a DNA of love, a DNA of solidarity,” he said.

He also said the southern African region had become intolerant.

“We think that the southern African region has become very intolerant, we think that the southern African region has become very poisoned, very vulnerable, very fragile. So, we are concerned with the threat to democracy that we find in South Africa, in Mozambique, in Zimbabwe, in Malawi, in Zambia [and] in the Democratic Republic of Congo,” Biti noted.

“We find this unacceptable and we find the growth of these little big men, people like President [Robert] Mugabe and others, as an anathema to our region. As democrats, we pray that we can stand up to protect constitutionalism and rule of law in our region, and most importantly, we pray that there is constitutionalism and rule of law in Zambia.”

Biti urged the courts to execute meticulousness in handling the treason trial against HH.

“We pray that courts shall stand up to bullying tactics and to justice…as we witness the further remand of president HH. Most importantly, we pray for peace. We would like to see the old Zambia back, which doesn’t ban newspapers, which doesn’t incarcerate members of the opposition for what are clearly frivolous and vexatious charges. Zambia at one stage housed six liberation movements [and] that’s the Zambia we know and that’s the Zambia we would like to see reproduced. Dzikomo kwambiri (thank you very much),” said Biti.

And Mokgalapa, who is also a member of parliament, said he was in the Zambia to deliver a solidarity message to incarcerated Hichilema on behalf of his party president Mmusi Maimane who was prevented by Zambian authorities from disembarking a chartered plane at Lusaka’s Kenneth Kaunda International Airport on May 25.

“We have observed with quite keen disdain the reversal of the gains of the Zambian people with undemocratic, autocratic government that has been instilled by President Lungu and we are quite concerned with the arbitrary arrest of opposition party members and alleged killing of those members. We are concerned about the gagging of the media; we feel that part of democracy is to ensure that the media is independent and there’s media freedom. So, we are quite concerned about that as well. I’m here to pledge solidarity with our sister party (UPND) [and] so, I bring an official message from president Mmusi Maimane who is the leader of the official opposition. I’m continuing his job that he couldn’t do because of the Zambian authorities. So, I am here to deliver his message to his dear friend and colleague (Hichilema) and most importantly, our sister party and pledge our solidarity. Secondly, I wear the hat as Africa Liberal president; a network that UPND and Democratic Alliance are members of. It’s a group of Liberal parties from Africa; it has 45 political parties from over 35 African countries, North, South, East, West and Central Africa,” Mokgalapa said.

“So, it is a strong, powerful message that I am bringing here and the solidarity that I am coming to pledge here also being a member of liberal international which is a global body of liberal political parties. So, our message is very clear; we are here to observe the court proceedings of our dear sister party leader, the official opposition of Zambia, Mr Hakainde Hichilema, we hope that the proceedings go according to plan and as being pronounced. We are here to call definitely for his immediate release as we feel that the charges that have been brought against him are just frivolous charges that do not hold.”

He observed that the threatened state of emergency was instilling fear in Zambians.

“As you are aware, we all shouted with joy when Zambia had a transfer of power in a democratic way [when] President Sata was inaugurated as the new President of Zambia. So, in the SADC region, Zambia is seen as the beacon of hope, of democracy and we would [not] like to see that change. Most importantly, we were concerned about the 90 days [threatened] state of emergency that has been installed in Zambia; it is instilling fear and instilling a lot of uncertainties among the Zambians. So, we would like to see Zambia return to its core values and principles of democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights and that is why we are here to come and observe your jurisprudence and to observe whether your courts are as independent and robust as they should be as prescribed by the Zambian Constitution,” said Mokgalapa.

“The main reason that we are here is to pledge our solidarity to our sister party, UPND that we are with you, we understand and acknowledge that no country is an Island; we are cut from the same cloth in the SADC region and we know this can happen to any one of us. We have got to ensure that we stand together when times are hard and rough and this is just one of those times when we pledge solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Zambia.”