A Zambian court bailed a fierce critic of President Edgar Lungu on Tuesday after he was charged with telling an ethnic Indian that he was stealing local jobs.
Chishimba Kambwili, who is still an MP in the ruling party, will go on trial on April 8 for showing hatred, ridicule or contempt for a person because of their race.
Kambwili allegedly told road worker Rajesh Kumar Verma, an Indian national, that his occupation should be reserved for indigenous Zambians.
A clip purporting to show the incident on February 19 went viral on social media, prompting the government to issue a rebuke.
“I deny the charge,” Kambwili told magistrate Humphrey Chitalu on Tuesday in a courtroom filled with scores of his supporters and some opposition leaders.
Opposition United Party for National Development leader Hakainde Hichilema was among those present.
“We want to save this country from thieves, crooks… we will continue speaking for you people. These jobs are not meant for foreigners but Zambians,” Kambwili said outside court.
“How can you allow a foreigner to get jobs meant for Zambians? Shame on you Lungu.”
Hichilema called on Zambians to protect each other from Lungu who is accused by opponents of using the justice system to stifle critics.
“We must be concerned with each other’s welfare, and let’s unite to kick the brutal regime,” Hichilema said.
If convicted Kambwili faces up to two years imprisonment.