SA to summon Zambian High Commissioner after Maimane stopped at Lusaka Airport

Mmusi Maimane says he was aggressively confronted by Zambian immigration officers at Lusaka Airport and denied entry into the country.

FILE: DA leader Mmusi Maimane. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN

JOHANNESBURG – Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane will address the media on Friday morning to explain what happened when he was barred from entering Zambia.

Maimane landed at OR Tambo International Airport last night.

He says he was aggressively confronted by Zambian immigration officers at Lusaka Airport and denied entry into the country.

Acting spokesperson Graham Charters says Maimane was with a bodyguard and his chief of staff.

“However, that was more than enough protection for a regular flight for a regular citizen to another African country. Mr Maimane didn’t, for one minute, anticipate that he would be met with such force and such authoritarian rule.”

Charters says Maimane was set to attend the treason trial of Hakainde Hichilema, the detained president of Zambia’s largest opposition party.

“Mr Hichilema, who’s the leader of the opposition in Zambia, is facing treason charges by the Zambian administration, which are pumped up and held no water in any legal system.”

Maimane says he still hasn’t received an official reason, explaining why he was barred from entering Zambia.

He says their passports and cellphones were confiscated during the incident.

“Ultimately you can’t, in a democracy, say to somebody you can take their equipment. They refused to engage us, started to manhandle us, put us down and said 'nobody is getting off this plane'.

“While they held us down, only then did they allow other passengers to leave the plane. They issued me with a boarding pass and told us to be on the next plane going back.”

Maimane will be speaking at the Zambian High Commission in Pretoria.

ZAMBIA HIGH COMMISSION SUMMONED

The Zambian High Commissioner is set to be summoned by South Africa’s International Relations Department to explain why Maimane was barred from entering Zambia.

The department says it has noted what has happened with the barring of Maimane from Zambia and says it will be calling in the Zambian High Commissioner to get an explanation of what happened.

The department says that according to its own understanding, South Africans don’t need visas to enter Zambia.

Dirco’s spokesperson Clayson Monyela says this is regrettable as Zambia is considered a friendly neighbour.

“There are cordial relations that exist between the two countries, hence our intention to call in the Zambian High Commissioner to get an explanation as to what led to this incident, and we’ll take it from there.

“Let’s first get the rationale behind their decision to not allow Mr Mmusi Maimane to enter their country.”

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)