Maimane: Deportation from Zambia was politically motivated

DA leader Mmusi Maimane and his team were on Thursday barred from entering the country at the airport.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane leaves the Zambian embassy in Pretoria on 26 May 2017. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN

PRETORIA - Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane says after meeting Zambian High Commissioner Emmanuel Mwamba he firmly believes that his deportation from that country was politically motivated.

Maimane met with the diplomat at the Zambian High Commission on Friday morning, less than 24 hours after being turned away from Kenneth Kaunda International Airport.

Heavily armed immigration officers prevented Maimane and his team from disembarking and their passports and cellphones were confiscated.

Maimane says the incident shows that Zambia’s democracy is falling apart.

He had travelled to Zambia to support opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema who was arrested six weeks ago on treason charges, which are believed to be trumped up.

Maimane says he asked Mwamba why he was deported and whose decision it was.

“The explanation that he gave me made me realise how political this issue is and that it was taken by the Zambian government. He himself did not know that.”

WATCH: Mmusi Maimane at Zambian High Commission

Mwamba says Lusaka was concerned by Maimane’s claims that he would mobilise regional opposition parties to push for the release of Hichilema.

“That goes first of all to assault the sovereignty of our country and it undermines the integrity of our rule of law and especially the judiciary.”

Mwamba claims Zambia’s democratic credentials remain admirable in Africa.

Earlier on Friday, a few dozen Zambian nationals gathered outside the country’s High Commission in Pretoria.

One man says he came out to defend President Edgar Lungu.

“We commend the Zambian government for doing what they did because he has no right whatsoever to trespass into our country, to go and give solidarity to a man who’s going through trial with the government.

“Zambia has laws, of which Zambians follow those laws. Zambia is a sovereign state for sure, so who’s Mmusi Maimane to go and bypass our law and force himself on Zambia?”

(Edited by Zamangwane Shange)