President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s spokesperson George Charamba on Tuesday sparked a diplomatic tiff with the new government of Zambia after calling President Hakainde Hichilema a “sellout”.
Charamba attacked Hichilema in May this year and repeated the undiplomatic rant yesterday after pictures of MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa meeting with the new Zambia leader at the inauguration ceremony emerged.
Hichilema (59), took the oath of office on Tuesday before thousands of jubilant supporters gathered at the Heroes Stadium in the capital, Lusaka, with both Mnangagwa and Chamisa in attendance among other regional leaders.
When pictures of Hichilema and Chamisa went viral, Twitter users reminded Charamba of his provocative comments about the new Zambian leader.
In response to lawyer Alex Magaisa, Charamba showed no contrition for his initial attack on Hichilema. He said:
Yes, they are sellouts. What is your problem?
United Party for National Development (UPND) party spokesperson Joseph Kalimbwe told NewsDay that it was wrong for Mnangagwa’s spokesperson to attack Hichilema when there was no previous relationship with his boss and Zambia’s new leader. Said Kalimbwe:
In my own personal view, it is catastrophic. (The comments) cannot be taken lightly. What is worrisome is that he is using a fake name, because he cannot come out openly as a spokesperson of a head of State to be saying such shameless statements.
Magaisa, a Zimbabwean academic who teaches law at the University of Kent in Britain, said by virtue of being the President’s spokesperson, there was no distinction between Charamba’s views and government position, which made his latest sentiments on Hichilema an issue of concern. Said Magaisa:
Charamba is a presidential spokesperson who is making a vile statement against a fellow Head of State.
His statement matters because we have seen his several other posts reflecting government positions on other issues.
It is undiplomatic for a presidential spokesperson to attack a fellow head of State on baseless accusations.
Ironically, Charamba makes the attack when they are attending Hichilema’s inauguration.
The fact is that there is fear and panic within the ruling party ZANU PF over the perceived close association between Chamisa and Hichilema.
Tensions between Mnangagwa and Chamisa have escalated since Hichilema’s victory with both leaders claiming to have close relations with him.
Earlier before the inauguration, Charamba had falsely claimed on Twitter that Chamisa was not going to attend Hichilema’s inauguration although he had been invited.