Popular Zambian musician and activist Fumba Chama – whose anti-corruption song Rat in the Pot got him into trouble – has been arrested after he returned from self-imposed exile in South Africa.
His arrest at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in the capital Lusaka, has been condemned by rights group Amnesty International as a “shocking affront to justice”.
“Pilato [as the musician is known to his fans] 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,” it added in a statement.
Chama fled to South Africa in January after receiving death threats over his song, Koswe Mumpoto (Rat in the Pot), which was interpreted as being critical of President Edgar Lungu and his ministers.
The song was a major hit in Zambia when it was released. Chama sang that the ruling elite was behaving like rats that steal food – an allegation which was strongly denied by ruling party supporters.
He was arrested in September 2017 for taking part in a protest against the government’s purchase of 42 fire engines for about $1m (£740,000) each. He fled to South Africa while on bail.
A warrant for his arrest was issued in February after he failed to appear in court on what Amnesty called “trumped up” charges related to the protest.
Mr Lungu took power on a pledge to fight corruption, and denies any wrongdoing.
Chama is a very big name in Zambia, and a controversial social commentator through his music, which is a fusion of rap and hip hop.