Former Zambian President Edgar Lungu has been warned from jogging in public, with authorities characterizing his weekly exercises as “political activism.”
His Saturday runs with regular members of the public and Patriotic Front (PF) supporters have gotten a lot of attention.
Mr. Lungu has been instructed to acquire police permission for future jogging activities.
The police order comes as speculation mounts that he may run for president in 2026.
According to a police statement, the PF’s refusal to notify them of “public gatherings or demonstrations… constitutes a violation of the law.” This is for the sake of public safety.”
It added that a “procession of a former head of state should be done with his security detail and devoid of political activism”.
But the former president’s lawyer Makebu Zulu told the BBC that he would continue with his jogging without notifying the police.
Mr Zulu threatened to take legal action against the government if the former president, 66, was blocked from working out on Saturdays.
“Mr Lungu has been jogging since time immemorial and his motivation has never been to contravene the law,” Mr Zulu said.
This is the latest apparent restriction on the former leader’s activities, who served as president from 2015 to 2021.
Some commentators have said the government of President Hakainde Hichilema is using the heavy-handed tactics that he criticised during his many years in opposition.
Mr Lungu recently took the government to court after he was allegedly blocked from travelling to South Korea for a conference. He later withdrew the case.
The PF also said the former president had been stopped from travelling for a medical trip despite seeking permission from the cabinet office.
The BBC has contacted Home Affairs Minister Jacob Mwiimbu for comment but has not yet received a response.
Despite saying he would retire from politics after losing the 2021 election, Mr Lungu has been reviving his public profile in recent months.
He is widely believed to be planning to contest the elections in three years’ time, hoping to capitalise on growing anger over rising fuel and food prices.
Mr Hichilema won in 2021 by a large majority on the hope that he would tackle the country’s economic problems.
He had previously unsuccessfully run for elections five times.