AFP – Zambia’s parliament on Tuesday suspended 48 opposition lawmakers who boycotted President Edgar Lungu’s address to legislators in March to protest his contested electoral victory.
The lawmakers from the United Party for National Development (UPND) skipped Lungu’s address claiming he was not the legitimate winner of the August 11 vote. Parliament Speaker Patrick Matibini said they should quit if they did not accept Lungu as the head of state. “I challenge you to resign on moral grounds if you do not recognise that there is a legitimately elected government,” Matibini said in parliament. “I have, in exercise of my powers, decided to suspend the 48 members of parliament from service for a period of 30 days with effect from today.”
Matibini said that the lawmakers would not be paid or have access to the parliament building or lodgings during their suspension. He also called for police to investigate the UPND’s leader, Hakainde Hichilema, on allegations of insulting the office of speaker. Tuesday’s decision is the latest in a long-running battle between Zambia’s government and the principal opposition.
Hichilema has launched unsuccessful legal bids to challenge Lungu’s victory in last year’s election, and the businessman-turned-politician has said he does not recognise Lungu’s presidency. He claims the vote was rigged and accuses Lungu of unleashing an unprecedented bout of political repression in the southern African country, which is known for its relative stability. Hichilema has been in custody since April accused of treason over allegedly putting the president’s life in danger when his motorcade failed to make way for the head of state’s limousine during a high-speed incident.