The Zambian government on Thursday defended its decision to deny Zimbabwe’s opposition leader asylum, saying there was no breakdown of law and order in that country.
Tendai Biti, a senior member of the Movement for Democratic Change alliance, was handed back to the Zimbabwe authorities early Thursday after his attempt to seek asylum was denied by the Zambian authorities.
Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya said the Zambian government denied the opposition figure
asylum as the lives of citizens in that country were not under threat.
But the Zimbabwean leader’s legal team has expressed shock that the Zambian authorities disregarded
a court order granted by a Zambian court not to deport him, according to local media.
A high court judge in Lusaka, the Zambian capital, granted the Zimbabwe opposition leader an application
to stay the deportation on Wednesday night, it was reported.
In a statement, the Zambian government spokesperson said the immigration authorities did not disregard
the court order before handing him to Zimbabwe authorities as the order had not yet been served at
the time he was being handed over.
NAN reports that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees expressed grave concerns by reports
that Biti was refused asylum in Zambia and sent back to his own country.
Zimbabwean police took former finance minister and opposition leader Tendai Biti into custody on Thursday after Zambian authorities rejected his bid for asylum and deported him, his lawyers said.
Six people were killed on July 31 in an army crackdown on post-election protests against the victory by Emmerson Mnangagwa’s ruling ZANU-PF party.
Mnangagwa’s main rival, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, has accused the government of clamping down on members of his party.
Biti, whose People’s Democratic Party had formed an election alliance with Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change , had been in hiding since July 31 and had feared for his life, his Zimbabwean lawyer Nqobizitha Mlilo said.
The post-election turmoil is reminiscent of contested elections during the long rule of Robert Mugabe, who was toppled in November 2017 in a de facto military coup.
He was replaced by his former intelligence and defence chief Mnangagwa, who pledged to hold free and fair elections.
Phiri said the Zambian High Court had on Wednesday night issued an order to stop Biti’s deportation but Zambian immigration and police refused to accept the court papers.
Biti had sought asylum when he tried to enter Zambia through the Chirundu border post, 350 km north of the capital Harare, but his application was rejected.
He was then moved to a school near another border crossing in Kariba before being handed over to Zimbabwean police, Phiri said.
“We tried to serve the court order on the immigration officers who were keeping him at a school under police protection but they refused to take it.”