Zambia’s President Hikainde Hichilema has been labelled a dictator following his order to bar former Zambian President Edgar Lungu from publicly jogging, with the police labelling his weekly runs as “political activism.”
Lungu frequently jogged on Saturdays alongside regular citizens and supporters of his Patriotic Front (PF) party.
This has drawn a lot of attention and Mr Lungu has been advised to obtain police authorization for his future jogging outings.
This directive from the police comes amid speculation about his potential presidential bid in 2026. A police statement asserted that the PF’s failure to notify them about “public gatherings or demonstrations” constitutes a violation of the law, emphasizing the importance of public safety. It also stated that a former head of state’s procession should be conducted with security personnel and devoid of political engagement.
However, Mr Lungu’s lawyer, Makebu Zulu, informed the BBC that his client intends to continue jogging without notifying the police. Mr Zulu threatened legal action against the government if the 66-year-old former president is prevented from exercising on Saturdays. He emphasized that Mr. Lungu has been jogging for a long time, with no intention of breaking
This marks the latest perceived restriction on the activities of the former president, who served from 2015 to 2021. Some observers suggest that President Hakainde Hichilema’s government is employing the same heavy-handed tactics he criticized during his years in opposition.
Notably, Mr Lungu recently took legal action against the government for alleged interference with his travel plans to South Korea for a conference, although he later withdrew the case. The PF also claimed that the former president was prevented from travelling for medical reasons despite seeking permission from the cabinet office.
The BBC has reached out to Home Affairs Minister Jacob Mwiimbu for comment but has yet to receive a response.
Lungu has been reemerging in the public eye in recent months despite initially announcing his retirement from politics after losing the 2021 election. He is widely believed to be planning a run in the upcoming elections. President Hichilema secured a decisive victory in 2021 on promises to address the country’s economic challenges, following several unsuccessful presidential bids in the past.