South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane was on Thursday denied entry into Zambia by immigration authorities.

Maimane, who had come to visit detained opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, was not allowed to disembark the plane and immigration authorities told him that his presence was not needed in Zambia.

On return back to Johannesburg, Maimane twitted: “Democracy is something we should all fight for on our continent. What I experienced today in Zambia violates democracy. Glad to be back home.”

It’s really true that weak men cannot handle power. It will either crush them, or they will use it to crush others. The desperation and unreasonableness of these Patriotic Front people is frightening. These people have literally stopped thinking. What does it benefit them to deny Maimane entry into Zambia? Isn’t this an own goal?

These are people who are totally dependent on South Africa for so many things. It’s in Maimane’s country where they go for medical attention! It’s in South Africa where they go to spend their loot! Some of them are owners of dubiously acquired property in that country!

What will happen to them if Maimane mobilised his party to make it difficult for them to be treated in South African hospitals? What will happen to them if every time they visit that country, there are demonstrations against them?

But why risk so much for so little? What do they gain from denying Hakainde visitors? Do they expect Maimane to just go back and remain silent?

And was such rough handling of Maimane, which bordered on criminality necessary? Why did they confiscate his phone and hold him incommunicado? Is it because they did not want the world to know what was happening to him? But if what they were doing was right, why try to desperately keep it under wraps? The truth is they knew very well that what they were doing was wrong but did it anyway.

They are also very sensitive to international scrutiny of Hakainde’s treason case because it doesn’t make sense, it is a trumped up charge.

But it’s folly for them to think they will be allowed to arrest, detain, harass and humiliate their fellow citizens with impunity, without anyone outside Zambia getting concerned and voicing out their displeasure. We have a common destiny and that calls for solidarity among us. And international solidarity, as Samora Machel explained it, is not an act of charity: it is an act of unity between allies fighting on different terrains toward the same objective. The foremost of these objectives is to aid the development of humanity to the highest level possible.

And as Nelson Mandela said, “That common destiny requires that we should treat the question of peace and stability on our continent as a common challenge. Accordingly, I believe that we must all accept that we cannot abuse the concept of national sovereignty to deny the rest of the continent the right and duty to intervene when, behind those sovereign boundaries, people are being slaughtered to protect tyranny.”

Maimane’s act of solidarity is necessary and highly welcome. It means a great deal to those who are arrested and detained to know that they are not alone. And this tyrannical government of Edgar Lungu knows it and that’s why they stopped Maimane from visiting Hakainde. And they shouldn’t try to fool anyone that Maimane’s visit was insignificant. If it was insignificant ,they would have allowed it.

Injustice anywhere in our region is a threat to justice everywhere in our region and must be fought collectively.

Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the rule of law prevails, and where individuals are not arrested and detained arbitrarily.

Blocking Maimane from entering Zambia is an exercise in futility. The publicity arising from it is far bigger than that which would have come with his unrestricted visit. It’s not possible to kill the truth in this way. It’s not possible to kill justice in this way. You cannot kill opposition in this way.

Such desperate intolerance just ends up uniting opposition against it. And people are way more powerful when they turn to each other and not on each other and together challenge tyranny, injustice.

There can be no peace without justice and respect for human rights.

Governments that try to block the aspirations of their people, that oppress and torture or that deny freedom of expression and human rights should bear in mind that they will find it increasingly hard to escape the judgment of their own people, or where warranted, international condemnation.

And international aviation law has been breached. Zambian immigration and other law enforcement agents had no right to storm a South African plane. Even if Maimane had committed a crime, which he did not, they should have let South African law deal with him as the plane is South African registered and South African law applies. This is a breach of international law and etiquette.

Zambia’s High Commissioner to South Africa has told South African Department of International Relations that Maimane was turned away from Zambia as his presence was going to undermine the sanctity, integrity and independence of the Zambian judiciary! How? We wish they didn’t drag the already tattered public image of the Zambian judiciary in this! What does this mean for the Zambian judiciary? What about those overzealous police and their dogs at the courts? What does that do to this type of judiciary they claim would have been undermined by Maimane’s presence?




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