Zimbabwe opposition politician Tendai Biti has been denied asylum in Zambia, after authorities in Zimbabwe briefly detained him as he tried to cross the border. Earlier reports said he had been arrested.
Human Rights Watch's Southern Africa director Dewa Mavhinga reported the news in a tweet on Wednesday, saying Zambia is expected to send Biti and five others back to Zimbabwe. He posted a quote from Biti that said: “It looks like they have made a decision to hand us back to the Junta. We are truly in God’s hands.”
High Alert: Zambia denied @BitiTendai & 5 others asylum, now planning to deport them to Kariba in 30mins. Message from Biti: "It looks like they have made a decision to hand us back to the Junta. We are truly in God’s hands." @hrw @RefugeesMedia @UNZimbabwe @263Chat @toddjmoss pic.twitter.com/Xutxn0Bq1T— Dewa Mavhinga (@dewamavhinga) August 8, 2018
The BBC quoted Zambia’s foreign minister Joe Malanji as saying Biti’s grounds for asylum were weak. He said Biti was being kept in “safe custody” until his return to Zimbabwe.
Biti’s lawyer, Nqobizitha Mlilo, said earlier Wednesday that his client was detained as he was attempting to cross the border. But Zimbabwe’s minister of home affairs later confirmed Biti was in Zambia.
Biti was one of nine members of the Movement for Democratic Change alliance wanted by Zimbabwe police for inciting violence following last week’s presidential election, which the MDC alliance claims was rigged in favor of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Biti held a news conference the day before President Mnangagwa was declared the winner and claimed that MDC leader Nelson Chamisa had won the July 30 vote. When Chamisa’s supporters took to the streets the next day to protest the official results, police responded by using tear gas and live fire, killing six people.
Also Wednesday, a spokesman for the MDC Alliance Nkululeko Sibanda, told VOA that many of its senior officials had gone into hiding, fearing arrests or abductions since the election.
The MDC alliance is challenging the official election results, saying that its candidate, Nelson Chamisa, won 56 percent of the vote.
Thabani Mpofu, the lawyer for the opposition, told reporters Wednesday that it would file a court challenge by the Friday deadline.