DA leader Mmusi Maimane has said he will ask the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) to issue a démarche against the Zambian embassy in South Africa.
In diplomatic circles, a démarche is the strongest action the country’s chief diplomat, Dirco Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, can take against the Zambian envoy in the country by summoning embassy officials to a meeting where a formal protest can be lodged.
Maimane arrived in the landlocked southern African country yesterday to attend the treason trial of the detained opposition leader, Hakainde Hichilema.
Hichilema was arrested in April and charged with treason for obstructing President Edgar Lungu’s motorcade on a main road in the Western Province. UK’s The Telegraph reported then that Hakainde Hichilema’s convoy declined to pull over to allow the presidential convoy to pass.
Both were on their way to a traditional ceremony. Kakoma Kanganja, the inspector-general of police in Lusaka, said Hichilema’s actions had attempted “to put the life of the republican president in danger”.
‘They told us to hand in our transmission devices.’
Earlier this week, Maimane announced that to celebrate Africa Day, he would visit the country to support the detained MP.
“We are friends, and both serve as leaders of the opposition,” he told Primedia, while explaining that South African embassy officials were waiting for him together with Hichilema’s delegation.
That was never going to happen. Maimane said upon descending towards the country’s main airport, an instruction was issued to the pilot for the plane to slow down. When he attempted to disembark, he said immigration officials identified him through face recognition and manhandled him.
“They told us to hand in our transmissions devices and took my iPad and phone,” he said they were then instructed to get on the next plane heading back to South Africa.
His entourage, in fact, never left the airport, and he is expected back in the country this evening.
Dirco deputy director-general of public diplomacy Clayson Monyela confirmed his department would be in touch with the Zambian embassy in South African to establish facts.