ON August 30, a contact with well-placed sources within government reached out to us and urged us to take FDD leader Edith Nawakwi’s privatisation allegations against UPND president Hakainde Hichilema very seriously, no matter how useless they sounded. The contact informed us that government was going to use those allegations she made on Hot FM to arrest the opposition leader. According to this source, the PF government was planning to harm Hakainde Hichilema, but they had been struggling to have access to his body.

“The PF have been looking for potential cases on which they can arrest Mr Hakainde Hichilema. Unfortunately, they found nothing after a long search. The ruling leadership then hatched a plan to arrest Mr Hichilema for his role in the privatisation of State companies during the era of president Frederick Chiluba. Madam Nawakwi’s allegations are useful for this purpose. The PF thinks that Zambians, many of whom were either not born or too young at the time, are likely to believe whatever she says because she was Minister of Finance at the time of privatisation. The primary motive behind the impending arrest is to have access to his physical body, not to convict Mr Hichilema since any trial would expose the bogus nature of the charges and the serious weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. Once they have Mr Hichilema in police custody, the plan is to eliminate him. However, some people in power are of the view that killing him can set the country on fire. Instead, they are proposing that it’s better to find a pliant judge who would be willing to convict Mr Hichilema and disqualify him from running for the Presidency,” reported the informant, adding: “It is like they regret not killing him when he was in remand prison for treason.”

We are not too much into conspiracy theories, and so we gave very little attention to this intel, which sounded quite unthinkable to us. In our view, we stated to the informer that this was too far-fetched. We argued that the PF may have gotten away with the bogus treason charge in 2017 without creating a crisis, but arresting the biggest opposition leader months before a contentious election, let alone eliminating him, would turn this country upside down. “The PF leadership would have to be completely out of their minds to adopt such a foolish strategy, and only a mad person in government would authorise a dangerous scheme of that nature,” we stated.

To our shock, even before the statement from the Chief Government Spokesperson, Dora Siliya, could circulate to the public on Tuesday, the contact reached out to us again showing us the same document and saying: “This is what I was warning you about. Like I told you, they want to use madam Nawakwi’s allegations to arrest Mr Hichilema so that they can have access to his body. This is very sad. How can a nation be led or rather misled to self-destruction this way?”

In her statement, Honourable Siliya stated as follows: “Nawakwi, through her various media engagements, has categorically stated that Mr Hichilema failed to declare interest, while presiding over the sale of public assets in which he had personal interest. Government finds Mr Hichilema’s conduct, if true, to be a clear case of corrupt practices, bordering on non-declaration of interest, in winning a bid. Government is, therefore, studying the matter and is following closely the reaction by the citizens who are the true owners of the property in question. The nation will be informed of the steps that the government will take, should it become necessary to act on behalf of the citizens of Zambia.”

The statement from the Minister also tallies well with the political analysis given by UNZA lecturer Dr Sishuwa Sishuwa who also stated as follows:

“PF are creating the pretext on which they may move to arrest Hichilema soon for being in possession of property suspected to be proceeds of corruption. I heard Nawakwi the other day saying that Hichilema dubiously acquired a house in Lusaka and inviting State investigative wings to arrest him. What Nawakwi is doing, however, is to push to the front the privatisation issue because Hichilema is gaining momentum. She is doing so in a way that suggests that the PF are building a profile for his arrest on a bogus charge of corruption. And who knows what they may do to Hichilema when he is in detention?”

We still don’t pay too much attention to outrageous conspiracy theories, but this does not look like a baseless conspiracy theory anymore. Reading the strange statement from the Minister, one would not help but imagine it being fake news. It’s hard to believe that government officials at the level of Cabinet Minister sat down to write such a statement. The statement is not only embarrassing, but it also signals unprecedented levels of desperation to stop an opposition leader from participating in an election.

Why is the PF so desperate to arrest Mr Hichilema? What do they want to do to him? Is it true that they want access to his body so that they harm him, or kill him? Is this what the humble, God-fearing President has resorted to? Is this a charge that a reasonable government can rely on to arrest an opposition leader or anyone else for that matter? What kind of reasoning is this? To the Honourable Minister who issued that statement and any other government official, including the President, if he is part of the scheme to arrest and harm Mr Hichilema, we make a simple, earnest appeal: please, do not set the country on fire! There already exists a huge heap of pent-up frustrations and cumulative anger among Zambians for different reasons that all have to do with the failure of the State to meet their yearnings and aspirations. Do not light or set this heap ablaze. The consequences of the explosion might be too horrific to ever imagine.