Zambian Opposition Official Denies Threatening President, Freed On Bail

zambiaA leading member of Zambia’s main opposition party denied threatening President Edgar Lungu with violence and was released on bail on Monday.

Geoffrey Mwamba, Vice-President of the United Party for National Development, was arrested on charges of inciting violence against Lungu last week. Police said he had threatened to “go for his throat”.

“I deny the charge,” Mwamba told a packed courtroom, without going into further details. If convicted, he faces a maximum of five years in prison, a lawyer said.

Political tensions are mounting before presidential, parliamentary and local elections in August.

Mwamba was also arrested then released by the police last week on separate charges of training party supporters to become an illegal militia.

President Lungu a fortnight ago accused the opposition of training party supporters to cause violence during the elections.

Mwamba also denied that charge and his party said that the arrests of 21 of its members on similar accusations were meant to intimidate the opposition before presidential elections.

Both Lungu and United Party for National Development leader, Hakainde Hichilema, are seen as front runners.

Presidential Election Holds In Zambia

Zambia
Zambians queue to cast their ballots for the Zambian Presidential elections at Kanyama primary in Lusaka on January 20, 2015. AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA

Voting began on Tuesday for the next president of Zambia, one of Africa’s most promising frontier markets, in what shaped up as a tight race between a populist lawyer and a wealthy economist.

Edgar Lungu, leader of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF), is seen having a slight edge over main rival, Hakainde Hichilema, a businessman whose United Party for National Development (UPND) has won over the middle-class and investors.

The two candidates had promised to improve the economy and create jobs in the country.

The winner would serve out the remaining 18 months of Michael Sata’s term as Zambia is due to hold a general election in 2016.

Former President, Michael Sata, passed away in October 2014 and Vice President Guy Scott became acting President of Zambia.

Observers have said that the election has been largely peaceful.

Counting of the ballots would begin shortly after polls close with results due to be announced within 48 hours.

Zambia is Africa’s biggest copper producer after Democratic Republic of Congo. Its mining sector had experienced a boom in recent years with the economy averaging a 6 to 7 percent growth.

It however slowed to to 5.5 percent in 2014 from being one of the world’s best performing economies.