Nason Msoni has accused President Edgar Lungu and his family of holding New Labour Party leader Fresher Siwale hostage, saying there is no reason to treat Siwale differently from any other offender if his allegations are false.

And Msoni says it has now become dangerous for opposition leaders to appear before magistrates’ courts because they all wanted to punish opposition leaders in an effort to be promoted to the position of a High Court judge.

In an interview, Msoni, the All People’s Congress (APC) Party president, said the continued detention of Siwale due to impossible bail conditions was undermining the rule of law, explaining that Siwale’s charge fell under civil litigation, and as such, it could not be considered defamation.

“We think that it was a deliberate ploy to create Mr Siwale’s bail complicated by making such unreasonable conditions. Even if he was a mad man, as they were saying, surely, is that how any society would wish to treat a mad man? This behaviour, in fact, exonerates the man [Siwale]. The manner in which they have treated him proves that there is some truth to it. Our view is that he is being held hostage by the family of Mr Lungu. This is our accusation; we are accusing Mr Lungu of holding Mr Fresher Siwale hostage. If Mr Siwale’s allegation has no truth in it, then there should be no reason why he should be treated any different from any other offender,” Msoni said.

“By all means, we still think that the charge, which has been applied on Mr Siwale, falls under civil litigation, it’s not a criminal defamation. This is a civil matter and it doesn’t matter who is accused or who the person has offended. Mr Lungu is an individual, even when he’s President, he is not above the law. The behaviour which has been exhibited undermines the very fundamental laws of our land, the rule of law has been undermined by the behaviour, which has been exhibited against Mr Siwale.”

And Msoni observed that appearing before magistrate courts had become dangerous for opposition leaders nowadays, because all magistrates were aspiring for promotion by mistreating opposition leaders.

“The sad part is that the Judiciary or the courts are creating an impression that they have become part of the problem in this case for Mr Siwale. The courts could not have made matters any worse than what they have done by imposing things that do not make sense. They know very well that it is near impossible for you to get a senior government civil servant, who is likely to fall vulnerable to disciplinary action or [get] instant dismissal, to be seen to champion the cause of an opposition leader. So, in Zambia, it is slowly becoming dangerous for an opposition leader to appear in a magistrate court. Every magistrate now is aspiring to be noticed for promotion, he’s trying to punish an opposition leader in an effort to be promoted to be a judge,” Msoni lamented.

“Opposition politicians are in danger when they to go to a magistrate court because these men and women appear to be more desperate to be elevated to High Court level. This is why, now, it is becoming very dangerous for an opposition leader to appear before any magistrate because they are being used by the party in government. So, we don’t have justice in this country at all, the rule of law has been broken down. But we think that where you have a civilised society that respects the Constitution, Mr Siwale could not have been treated less human as he has been treated. There is no institution that will stand up to defend Mr Siwale now because all institutions have been compromised.”

He appealed to President Lungu to secure Siwale’s release immediately.

“I want to take this opportunity to ask Mr Lungu to secure the release of Mr Siwale; I also want to appeal to the police, the Judiciary, to behave professionally. More so, the Judiciary, it should not be seen to work closely with PF, because that is what is undermining the confidence in the entire judiciary system in our country. You can’t impose such unattainable bail conditions. Realistically, how does a senior civil servant risk his pension, risk his job, risk his personal survival to go and sign bail for Mr Siwale?” asked Msoni, adding that Siwale’s incarceration was now an abduction.