Zimbabwe opposition figure arrested while seeking asylum

Former Zimbabwe Finance Minister Tendai Biti delivers his midterm state of the economy address in 2013 (JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images)

Zimbabwe’s former Finance Minister Tendai Biti has been detained by police after he was denied political asylum in neighbouring Zambia.

The opposition politician was detained as he tried to cross the border, according to his lawyer.

On Tuesday, Zimbabwean authorities said they were looking for Biti and two others in connection with violence that occurred following last week’s disputed election in which President Emmerson Mnangagwa was declared winner.

Six people were killed in the post-election army clampdown on protests against the result and Mnangagwa’s main rival, opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, has accused the government of a security crackdown on his party’s members.

Biti, whose People’s Democratic Party had formed an election alliance with Chamisa’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), had been in hiding since last week, his lawyer Nqobizitha Mlilo said.

“We have kickstarted processes of seeking political asylum so we are waiting to see how far the processes will go. His life has been in danger,” he said.

Police have not yet informed Mlilo of the charges against his client, while Police spokeswoman Charity Charamba said she had no information on Biti’s arrest.

Mlilo said Biti was arrested after presenting himself to Zambian immigration officials at Chirundu border post, 350 km north of the capital Harare, where Zimbabwean and Zambian officials share the same building.

“It seems the Zambian immigration officials alerted the Zimbabwean police and they effected an arrest,” he said.

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