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Zambia police charge MP with hate speech for 'Indian jibe'

Chishimba Kambwili, a critic of President Edgar Lungu, allegedly told an Indian-origin road worker that his occupation should be reserved for indigenous Zambians.

FILE: Former Zambian minister and a leading critic of President Edgar Lungu, Chishimba Kambwili, gestures while arriving at the Lusaka Magistrates Court Complex on 28 March 2018 to stand a trial on charges of profiting from the proceeds of crime. Picture: AFP

LUSAKA - Authorities in Zambia charged a prominent ruling party MP, Chishimba Kambwili, with hate speech on Monday for allegedly telling an ethnic Indian worker he was stealing local jobs.

Kambwili, a fierce critic of President Edgar Lungu, allegedly told an Indian-origin road worker that his occupation should be reserved for indigenous Zambians.

A clip purporting to show the incident went viral on social media last week, prompting the government to issue a rebuke.

Kambwili, 49, attended Lusaka central police station on Monday, supported by opposition leaders including United Party for National Development (UPND) leader Hakainde Hichilema.

Kambwili's supporters chanted anti-government songs denouncing official corruption.

"Police in Lusaka have arrested and charged Chishimba Kambwili with expression or showing hatred, ridicule or contempt for persons because of race, tribe or place of origin," said police spokeswoman Esther Katongo in a statement.

Kambwili, who was briefly minister of information and broadcasting, was denied bail and is expected to appear in court on Tuesday.

Lungu has been accused of using the legal process to suppress his critics. In 2017, Hichilema was arrested and charged with treason after his motorcade apparently failed to stop for the president's own road convoy.
Hichilema said the denial of bail demonstrated what he called Lungu's authoritarian instincts.

"We as Zambians must know that we have a tyrant in office. The leadership of tyrants have not stayed in power for too long. Don't be afraid as Zambians and let us unify to remove these tyrants," he said.

"Kambwili is not a flight risk and the police should have accorded him bond (bail). This thing should come to an end and as Zambians we have to unite," Elias Chipimo, another opposition leader, told journalists.

If convicted Kambwili faces up to two years' jail.