Zambia slipping towards dictatorship: Catholic Bishops

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File: Congo's conference of Catholic bishops has withdrawn as mediator in talks between the government and opposition.

JOHANNESBURG - Zambia’s Conference of Catholic Bishops has warned that the country “is slipping towards dictatorship”.

This follows the suspension of 48 Zambian MPs for 30 days after they boycotted Zambian President Edgar Lungu’s state of the nation address in March, arguing that Lungu was not the legitimate winner of last year’s election.

The suspended 48 MPs represent nearly the entire parliamentary party of 58.

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Parliament speaker Patrick Matibini labelled the MPs’ boycott as “gross misconduct”.

Matibini further stated that the suspension took effect immediately and challenged the suspended MPs to resign.

“I therefore challenge the UPND members that if they still maintain that they do not recognise the president, they should resign on moral grounds.”

The suspension followed Hakainde Hichilema, the leader of opposition party the United Party for National Development (UPND), being imprisoned on treason charges.

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Hichilema was arrested last April after a convoy in which he was travelling refused to give way to a presidential motorcade, leading to accusations that he was endangering the president’s life – a charge his lawyers say are politically motivated.

The Conference of Catholic Bishops, which has become increasingly critical of Lusaka following the detention of the opposition leader, warned that the country was slipping towards a “dictatorship”.

Hichillema, lost to Lungu in last year’s close election.