Zambia musician ordered detained as he returns home

Lusaka (AFP) –


A Zambian court on Thursday ordered that a popular and controversial musician be detained a day after he returned home having fled the country early this year fearing for his life.

Chama Fumba, popularly known as Pilato, was picked up on Wednesday at Lusaka airport on his return from South Africa where he had spent four months.

He fled Zambia after receiving threats from supporters of the Patriotic Front over his hit song "Koswe Mumpoto" which in the local Bemba dialect translates to "rat in the pot".

The song was widely seen as accusing President Edgar Lungu and his ministers of being corrupt.

An arrest warrant was issued last month when the 34-year-old, who is also a prominent anti-corruption campaigner, failed to appear in court as he was abroad.

Pilato was along with five other activists, due in court for protesting last year against the procurement of 42 fire-fighting vehicles at a cost of $1 million (850,000 euros) each -- an example of alleged graft under Lungu.

They all pleaded not guilty to charges of illegally protesting outside parliament when they appeared before a magistrate on Thursaday.

Magistrate Mwaka Mikalile then ordered that only Pilato be detained until May 21 over his failure to appear in court at a previous hearing.

The court will on Monday make a ruling on whether to restore his bail or not.

Pilato?s lawyer Keith Mweemba told the court that the singer was not a flight risk and that he had fled Zambia because of the threats on his life.

Pilato submitted to court evidence, including footage where PF supporters vowed to deal with him.

At the end of Thursday's court hearing, Pilato hugged his five co-accused before been taken away to a holding cell at the court premises.

One of the activists on trial Laura Miti vowed they would continue government graft .

"Despite this arrest we will continue to demand for accountability from the leaders," Miti told reporters.

"Every other day there are new revelations of corruption. Just now we have heard of the president acquiring land in Swaziland and so we continue to demand for accountability,? she said.

Local media in Zambia and Swaziland, recently renamed eSwatini, have reported that President Lungu is planning to build a $3.9 million mansion on a piece of land in Swaziland.