Pilato returns, gets arrested

Musician Fumba Chama popularly known Pilato is back in the country, but has immediately been arrested.

And Amnesty International has demanded his immediate release.

Pilato arrived aboard South African Airways at 15:00 hours but was quickly picked up by police and immigration officials.

He left Zambia in early January this year after receiving threats from the ruling Patriotic Front functionaries in response to his song Koswe Mumpoto (rat in a pot), which was interpreted as criticising President Edgar Lungu and his ministers.

The Lusaka magistrates’ court issued a bench warrant against Pilato on February 5 after he failed to appear before court.

And Amnesty International has described Pilato’s arrest as a shocking demonstration of how far the Zambian government is prepared to go to strangle all criticism and crack down on freedom of expression.

“The arrest of Pilato as soon as he arrived back on home soil is a shocking affront to justice. It shows the lengths to which Zambian authorities are prepared to go to stifle dissent. This is a classic case of misuse of the criminal justice system in Zambia, and is designed to deal with anyone who demands accountability or is seen to be embarrassing the government.” Amnesty International’s Regional Director for Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena said in a statement issued today.

“Pilato is not a criminal, he is an activist and artist. He should not spend a single night in jail. He must be released immediately and unconditionally.Pilato is not a fugitive from justice. What he is facing is blatant and unfair persecution for speaking out against abuse of power.”

In September 2017, Pilato and five other activists staged a peaceful protest outside Parliament demanding accountability for the procurement of 42 fire trucks at a cost of USD$42 million USD.

The cost of the trucks was widely seen as exorbitant by the general public.

The procurement process was also questioned, resulting in a public outcry over alleged misuse of public funds.

He and others were arrested the same day and charged the following day.

The matter is still in court.