Biti denied asylum in Zambia as crackdown escalates in Zimbabwe

President Edgar Lungu beads farewell to Newly sworn in Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa during private talks at Sheraton hotel in Harare

LUSAKA – Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Malanji has confirmed that opposition leader Tendai Biti is in Lusaka after he attempted to seek asylum.

Ambassador Malanji said Mr Biti’s asylum request was unsuccessful because but his grounds were not sufficient.

He said Mr. Biti is being kept for safe “custody” awaiting his return to Harare.

Ambassador Malanji said Mr. Biti had not been arrested but was rather detained in safe custody as the Zambian authorities awaited communication from the Zimbabwean government before he could be deported.

“He was attempting to seek asylum in Zambia but the grounds under which he would want to seek asylum are not meritorious. So basically he has not been arrested, all we are doing is keeping him in safe custody and waiting for the Zimbabwean authority to help him get back to Harare. The grounds do not merit asylum. He is not in danger. He is only going to answer charges to legitimate courts of law,” Ambassador Malanji said.

Mr. Biti, who was finance minister in the coalition government from 2009 to 2013, is a leading member of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party, which denounced Emerson Mnangagwa’s July 30 election victory as fraudulent and vowed to challenge it in court this week.

Mr. Biti had declared before official election results were announced Friday that opposition leader Nelson Chamisa had won, a claim also made by Mr. Chamisa himself.

“In a normal country, Chamisa would be sworn in right now,” Mr. Biti told reporters a day after the election.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has said it is illegal to release results before its own official announcement.