Zambian MPs suspended for snubbing presidential speech


Zambia’s parliament suspended 48 opposition lawmakers for boycotting a speech by the president, widening a political rift that has alarmed rights groups.

Parliament’s speaker barred the United Party for National Development (UPND) politicians from taking their seats for 30 days, a move that bans them from the building and stops their pay.

Their party, defeated in August elections it said were rigged, called the suspensions unconstitutional.

The lawmakers boycotted President Edgar Lungu’s address at the official opening of the assembly in March, saying they did not recognise him as leader.

A month later, the UPND’s leader Hakainde Hichilema and five others were arrested and charged with treason after a column of opposition vehicles failed to make way for Lungu’s motorcade.

Amnesty International said the treason charges are “trumped up” and called for the politicians’ release.

On Tuesday, parliament’s speaker Patrick Matibini told opposition lawmakers: “I challenge you to resign on moral grounds if you do not recognise a legitimately elected government.”

The suspensions affected 48 of the party’s 58 MPs. The remaining 10 officially excused themselves from attending parliament on the day of Lungu’s speech and were not included in the suspension.

Hichilema was moved from a prison in Lusaka to a maximum security facility outside the capital on June 9.