Zambian Leader Arrested, Charged With Defamation For Calling The President A Potato

| by Jonathan Wolfe

Watch your words if you plan on visiting Zambia anytime soon. Zambian opposition leader Frank Bwalya was arrested and charged with defamation on Monday after calling President Michael Sata a potato.

The exact term used by Bwalya was "chumbu mushololwa.” The term is used to refer to a sweet potato that breaks when it is bent, and is used to describe someone who does not listen to advice.

Bwalya is the leader of the Alliance for a Better Zambia. His public opposition to President Sata no doubt played a significant role in his arrest. Supporters of Bwalya are accusing President Sata of being a hypocrite, saying that he openly criticized former presidents before he was in power and was never punished.

"President Sata is the same old man who was on all radio stations defaming former presidents Banda and Mwanawasa and nobody arrested him," said Alliance for a Better Zambia secretary-general Eric Chanda.

Oppositional National Restoration Party leader Elias Chipimo is demanding Bwalya’s release, calling him the type of fearless politician the country needs.

"Zambia desperately needs leaders that will openly declare - when necessary - that 'the King is naked'," Chipimo said.

He added that the term “chumbu mushololwa” is not an insult.

"It describes a person who lacks flexibility and who like a potato [icumbu] will only break when you try to change their fixed ideas," Chipimo said.

If convicted of the defamation charges, Bwalya faces up to five years in prison.

Sources: Times Live, BBC