US-BASED Thomas Mapfumo has joined global calls for the release of Zambian musician and activist Pilato aka Fumba Chama who was arrested on charges of participating in a peaceful protest in September last year.
Pilato was arrested at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport on May 16 upon his return home after spending four months in Johannesburg, South Africa.
In a statement, Mapfumo’s publicist, Blessing Vava said Pilato is a victim of the Zambian government’s human rights abuses.
“The Zambian government is targeting people like Pilato because they are standing up and demanding accountability from their government. Pilato is a victim of a government that is trying to consolidate its base through the limiting of freedom of expression and in this case artistic expression,”
“He is not a criminal. Instead of targeting criminals who are eroding state institutions, they are using him as a scapegoat. He must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Mukanya as he is affectionately known by his legions of fans.
Chama and five other activists, Lewis Mwape, Laura Miti, Sean Enock Tembo, Bornwell Mwewa and Mika Mwambazi staged a peaceful protest outside parliament, demanding accountability for the procurement of 42 fire trucks at a cost of $42 million. The six activists were arrested and beaten.
“The Zambian government is targeting musicians like Pilato and activists to clearly send a chilling message that any dissenting view will not be tolerated. In participating in this protest these individuals have done absolutely wrong –they are certainly not criminals,” said Mapfumo who was once a victim of political persecution during the time of ousted president Robert Mugabe.
Mukanya fled to the USA at the turn of the millennium after falling out with the Mugabe regime over his controversial songs.