Zambian Government hands back Tendai Biti to Zimbabwe in disregard of court order

MDC Alliance Spokesperson Tendai Biti speaks during a press conference on June 1, 2018 where he announced that Zimbabwe's opposition parties are calling for electoral reforms ahead of the July 30 general elections and that there will be street demonstrations in the capital Harare on June 5. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA

The Zambian Government has handed over opposition MDC senior official Tendai Biti to the Zimbabwean authority in total disregard of a High Court Order granted to Mr Biti last night.

According to Mr Biti’s legal team, the Zambian immigration office handed the opposition leader at 06:00hrs this morning via Chirundu despite being served with a court order at 04:00 Hours today.

“Contrary to the law and a Court order. And even assuming it was a deportation, which it was not, the law is clear that a deportee can choose a country of his choice to which he can be deported but in this case he was denied that right”.

“The whole thing just smells of illegality and extra judicial behavior by Zambian authorities. It is also a breach of international law”, the legal team said.

Mr. Biti was accompanied across the border by a horde of heavily armed Zambian police officers and the legal team is currently making frantic efforts to establish his exact whereabouts.

Meanwhile,the legal team is expected to appear before Judge Pixie Yangailo in the wake of the latest developments.

Mr Biti was represented by Keith Mweemba, Gilbert Phiri and Mulambo Haimbe.

According to the court order, Mr. Biti was expected to appear for an ex-parte hearing before Judge Yangailo in a matter in which he is challenging the decision by the Government of the Republic of Zambia to deny him leave to apply for refugee status in Zambia.

According to the court documents signed by High Court Judge in Charge Gertrude Chawatama, Mr Biti was to will in the company of his legal team comprising Keith Mweemba and Associates,Gilbert Phiri of PNP and Malambo and Associates this morning at 08:00hrs.

Mr Biti who was arrested and detained at Chirundu border post on insitigation of Zimbabwean intelligence operatives has challenged the decision to have him sent back to Harare to answer charges of inciting violence in the aftermath of that country’s General elections.

He has cited the Attorney General as the first respondent.

Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Malanji yesterday revealed that the Zambian government cannot confer asylum status on Mr Biti as his grounds were not meritorious hence will be sent back to Zimbabwe.

This in clear violation of the Zambian Refugee law as well as the 1951 convention on the rights of persons seeking refugee status.

Meanwhile, The US Government has strongly urged the Zambian government to allow Zimbabwean opposition leader Tendai Biti to remain in Zambia until his asylum request can be appropriately evaluated.

Assistant Secretary for US Department of State’s Bureau of African Affairs Tibor Nagy stated that Zambia should as an option to allow Mr Biti safe passage to another country, consistent with its international obligations.

Zambia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Joe Malanji yesterday confirmed that Zambia had turned down an asylum request from Mr Biti and was readying to hand him over to Zimbabwe authorities after he was detained at Chirundu boarder.

“I strongly urge Zambia to allow Mr. Biti to remain in Zambia until his asylum request can be appropriately evaluated, or to allow him safe passage to another country, consistent with its international obligations,” Mr Nagy.

Mr Nagy added, “We understand that Mr. Biti has legitimate concerns about his own safety and is currently in the custody of Zambian authorities.”

Mr Nagy said he has been in contact with the US Embassies in Harare and Lusaka and that the Department of State is deeply troubled by credible reports that opposition supporters are being targeted by members of the Zimbabwean security forces, which has led Mr. Biti to seek safe haven in Zambia

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Chris Coons, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, says he is deeply concerned over reports of violent government-sponsored attacks in Zimbabwe since the elections on July 30.

“I am watching the situation in Zimbabwe very closely, and I am concerned about reports of arbitrary arrests, detentions, and government-sponsored violence. These tactics have no place in a democracy, and the government must ensure they stop immediately.”

“Any disagreements over last month’s election should be dealt with through fair and open investigations, hearings, and legal processes. I am particularly alarmed to hear that members of the MDC alliance have been detained by government-backed security forces.

Senator Coons said reports of the detention of Tendai Biti at the Zambian border are especially unnerving.

He charged that the U.S. Senate will hold the government of Zimbabwe responsible for ensuring Mr. Biti and other detainees are not harmed in any way.

“I also call upon the Trump Administration, the U.S. State Department, the governments of Zimbabwe, Zambia and other regional actors to stand against politically motivated arrests and to support and promote the rule of law.”

The people of Zimbabwe have suffered through such tactics of repression and intimidation for decades. Last month’s election was supposed to offer them something different. It is not too late for the leaders of Zimbabwe to restore the sense of hope and fairness that its people deserve.”

Source: Lusaka Times