A popular governing party lawmaker, Chishimba Kambwili has been charged with hate speech for reportedly shouting at a male worker of Indian origin that he was stealing local jobs, authorities in Zambia have confirmed.
Kambwili reportedly told the worker, who was a driver operating a compactor under the Lusaka decongestion project, to leave the country as his work should be reserved for indigenous Zambians.
“How can you come in our country to drive this when Zambians have no jobs? Go back to your country. Foolish,” the BBC quoted Kambwili as saying in a video that went viral on social media last week.
“This is very annoying! How can an Indian come all the way from India to come and drive a compactor?,” the lawmaker, who is a staunch critic of the president, Edgar Lungu, further said in the footage.
His words did not go down well with authorities and he was subsequently arrested by the police.
“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 spokesperson, Esther Katongo, in a statement.
This is contrary to section 70 of the Penal Code, Cap 87 of the Laws of Zambia.
Kambwili was denied bail and was expected in court on Tuesday as at the time of filing this report.
“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, an opposition leader, said.
When the 49-year-old member of parliament appeared at the Lusaka Central Police Station on Monday, local media reports that he was accompanied by his family, as well as, several opposition leaders including the United Party for National Development (UPND) leader, Hakainde Hichilema.
Hichilema was recently arrested and charged with treason after his motorcade reportedly failed to stop for the president’s own road convoy.
Lungu has, in recent times, been accused of increasing authoritarian rule and of suppressing dissent. In 2017, the Conference of Catholic Bishops, one of the most influential bodies in the country, said Zambia does not deserve to be called a democracy. It said under the leadership of Lungu and the Patriotic Front, the country has become a dictatorship, or almost there.
Lungu has since denied accusations that he is creating a dictatorship in Zambia.
Kambwili had previously served as Lungu’s information minister before he later fell out with him. Since then, Kambwili had been one of the most prominent voices speaking out against Lungu and had, on many occasions, accused the president of being corrupt.
In 2017, he was arrested in Lusaka over allegations of making profits from criminal activity.
For his recent “derogatory and racial remarks” against an Indian national, the Zambian lawmaker faces up to two years’ jail if convicted, said chief government spokesperson, Dora Siliya.
Siliya added that Kambwili went against the law and that the law should take its course against his actions.