Zimbabwe Detains Tendai Biti for ”inciting public violence;” Declaring “Unofficial Or Fake” Election Results,

Tendai Biti. (File: AFP)
Tendai Biti. (File: AFP)
Senior Zimbabwean opposition figure Tendai Biti was in police custody on Thursday after Zambia rejected his asylum bid and deported him, as fears grew about a government crackdown following Zimbabwe’s disputed election.

Biti was at Harare Central Police Station with his lawyers, said Roselyn Hanzi of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights. Police spokesperson Charity Charamba said Biti faced charges of inciting public violence, which could bring up to a decade in prison, and declaring “unofficial or fake” election results, which has a maximum six-month sentence

Zambian border guards handed Biti to Zimbabwean authorities despite a Zambian court order saying he should not be deported until it could hear his appeal for asylum, Zambian lawyer Gilbert Phiri told The Associated Press.

“Zambian authorities acted in defiance of our courts, in defiance of regional and international law,” Phiri said. Zambia’s foreign minister said Biti’s reasons for seeking asylum “did not have merit.”

Biti’s plight has raised concerns about a wave of repression against the opposition by the government of Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who narrowly won last week’s election. It comes as the opposition prepares to launch a legal challenge to last week’s voting results, calling them fraudulent.

“This is a worrying development,” said David Coltart, a friend of Biti’s who is a fellow member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change and a human rights lawyer. “Tendai was arrested in 2008 on a similar charge and while he was in custody he was brutally tortured.”

The United Nations refugee agency said it was “gravely concerned” about the reports of Biti’s forced return to Zimbabwe, calling such returns a serious violation of international law. It urged Zambian authorities to urgently investigate.

A joint statement by the heads of missions in Zimbabwe of the European Union, the United States, Canada and Australia urgently called on Zimbabwean authorities to guarantee Biti’s safety and respect his rights. It also said the diplomats were “deeply disturbed” by the reports of Zimbabwean security forces targeting the opposition.

Biti, a former finance minister and newly elected member of parliament for the MDC, a day after the July 30 vote urged opposition supporters to defend their votes in the disputed ballot, saying that MDC candidate Nelson Chamisa had won the presidential race.

Authorities say it is against the law to declare the winner of an election before the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announces the official results.

The day after Biti’s remarks, the military opened fire to disperse opposition protesters in the streets of Zimbabwe’s capital, killing six people. Western election observers, whose endorsement of a credible election is badly needed for the lifting of international sanctions on Zimbabwe, quickly condemned the “excessive” force.

While Mnangagwa has hailed a “flowering” of democracy in Zimbabwe since longtime leader Robert Mugabe stepped down in November under military pressure, alarm has been growing inside and outside the country.

The British embassy in Zimbabwe said on Thursday it had spoken with Zimbabwean and Zambian authorities overnight to seek “clear assurances” that Biti’s safety would be guaranteed. The United States’ top diplomat for Africa, Tibor Nagy, urged Zambian authorities to allow Biti to stay or allow him safe passage to a third country.

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The state-run Herald newspaper in an “editorial comment” said Biti “sneaked into Zambia in a bid to evade the law.”

It also urged Zambian authorities to respect Interpol and not the UN convention on refugees, which rejects the returning of asylum-seekers to the countries they have fled.

Under Mugabe’s 37 years in power, Zimbabwe was dogged by charges of rigged and fraudulent elections, along with violence against opposition figures.

Biti, one of the most outspoken critics of the government, was quick to warn that while the ouster of Mugabe was welcome, the military takeover that led to his resignation set a dangerous precedent for its involvement in civilian affairs.

“The genie is out of the bottle,” Biti said in June.

Zimbabwe’s churches urge lifting of international sanctions

zimbabwe elections

The Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC) has urged the lifting of ‘punitive’ sanctions on Zimbabwe following last week’s disputed election, which saw incumbent president Emmerson Mnangagwa returned with a decisive majority.

In a ‘pastoral statement‘, the ZCC said: ‘We plead with the international community not continue the isolation of Zimbabwe on the basis of shortcomings of this election. You are fully aware that the punitive measures on the new government will not affect those in leadership but the ordinary Zimbabweans. We believe that it is in the opportunities for Zimbabweans’ access to health care, education and basic social services that the nation will flourish and grow a robust democracy.’

Emmerson Mnangagwa
ReutersZimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa looks on as he gives a media conference at the State House in Harare, August 3, 2018.

The statement acknowledged the perception that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which pronounced the elections broadly free and fair, was ‘not fully independent’ and that ‘the electoral playing field remains uneven whilst favouring incumbents’.

However, it backed the ZEC’s ‘technical conclusions’ and urged the release of supporting data.

It also reflected on the divisions that marked the election, saying: ‘The deepening polarization between urban and rural voters, younger and older voters, as well as richer and poorer voters requires urgent redress through a holistic process of nation building and envisioning. The cry of different sectors of our population requires both a pastoral and prophetic response.’

READ: The churches and the aid agencies made the same theological error

The statement urged the ruling Zanu-PF party to pursue policies aimed at unity and reform, and issued a thinly-veiled warning to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change to eschew violence and beware of incendiary rhetoric. It refers to ‘the pressing need to maintain peace and not take actions that may easily deteriorate to chaos. Volatile situations tend to deteriorate and attain a life of their own beyond anyone’s control.’

Like millions of Zimbabweans, I was disappointed by the election results – but there is still hope

ByWilf Mbanga Editor of The Zimbabwean

Like millions of my fellow countrymen and women, I feel devastated that Zimbabwe has been cheated of a wonderful opportunity to make a fresh start.zimre

After 38 years of misrule under Robert Mugabe, his removal last November was a dream come true. Euphoric celebrations lasted for days. People climbed up onto the tanks that trundled into the city centres and hugged the soldiers manning them.

Our liberator, the ‘smart coup’ mastermind and former vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, promised elections within a year. He was true to his word. What made us all dare to hope so hard was that he appeared to be what he said he was – a born again democrat; tolerant of divergent views, prepared to fight corruption and determined to resuscitate the moribund economy by re-engaging the west and cutting through the tangle of red tape that had stifled investment in the past.

mnangagwa-finger-and-mugabe (1)
After 38 years of misrule under Robert Mugabe, his removal last November was a dream come true.

When he renounced Mugabe’s crude anti-west rhetoric and actively courted business delegations from the USA, Britain and the EU, opened the door to the international media and foreign election observers from every nation under the sun (banned during the Mugabe era), our hopes soared even higher.

Many of us still had misgivings of course. The memories of Mnangagwa’s ruthless ways in his various roles since 1980 – as minister of defence, justice, the intelligence services, and as Mugabe’s election agent were clear. But he got rid of Mugabe for us, and this election – open to the eyes of the world as never before – was a golden opportunity for a clean break with the past.

Millions of us in exile abroad spoke longingly of returning home. Most had fled in search of jobs as the economy collapsed, we lost our currency and our bread basket status, repression by the state became the norm and corruption became systemic. An estimated four million sought greener pastures around the world.

Then in February, veteran opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, founding president of the MDC, died of cancer. His protegee and vice-president – a firebrand young lawyer and pastor, Nelson Chamisa, sprang to the fore and charmed huge crowds all over the country with his eloquence and vigour. There was more hope for a future ruled by the new generation, who knew how the 21st century worked and what was needed for Zimbabwe to catch up with it – and not by septuagenarians who only talked about fighting the bush war in the 1970s.

As preparations for the election unfolded, however, it became all too apparent that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission was still sorely compromised and there was flagrantly partisan towards Zanu-PF. Formed in 2004 as a purportedly independent body to run election, ZEC was compromised from the start. It was still staffed largely by army personnel, especially at senior levels. The catalogue of its partisan behaviour during the run-up to the election is lengthy.

Like millions of Zimbabweans, I was disappointed by the election – but there is still hope Zimbabwe opposition leader claims voting was ‘rigged’ following defeat President Emmerson Mnangagwa wins controversial Zimbabwe election It includes withholding the voters roll from the opposition MDC, until forced by a court order to release it; failing to remove the 900,000 ghost voters; leaking the phone numbers of individual voters to Zanu-PF; avoiding any semblance of transparency regarding the printing, storage and distribution of the ballot papers; and bungling the postal vote by the police force.

Its shenanigans during the election have been well documented and will undoubtedly form the basis of the MDC’s legal challenge against the official results, in which ZEC claims that Mnangagwa won 50.8% of the presidential vote.

MDC president Nelson Chamisa says that according to his records, he won 56%. Whether one believes that this election was stolen or not is immaterial.

The fact of the matter is that we now have another five years of Zanu-PF – the party that has overseen the decay of a once proud and prosperous nation. This is the party that has been synonymous with rigging elections in the past, with violence, corruption and human rights abuses on a large scale. Its upper echelons – the chefs (as they are called in local parlance) – are wealthy beyond measure, while most Zimbabweans are jobless.

Our only hope for the future is that the international business community decide to hold their noses and invest in Zimbabwe anyway. There is money to be made in Zimbabwe – and more than anything, people need jobs.

 

Source: METRO