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Zimbabwean opposition official arrested after being refused asylum in Zambia

Tendai Biti, Zimbabwe’s former finance minister and one of the leaders of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has been arrested under charges of inciting post-election violence as well as “possession of dangerous weapons” and “subversive material”.

The arrest comes after the MDC contested last Friday’s election result which yielded a victory for Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Zanu-PF candidate, who took power in a military coup that ousted Robert Mugabe in November 2017.

The MDC had planned to file a court case, which would delay Mnangagwa planned inauguration for Sunday.

Mr Biti, who had fled to Zambia following post-election violence, was arrested after Zambia deported him, refusing to grant him asylum defying a court order not to deport him. The Zambian Foreign Minister, Joe Malanji claimed that Mr Biti’s grounds for his asylum claim were “weak”.

Mr Biti was a staunch critique of the Zambian President Edgar Lungu and had previously accused him of behaving in a Mugabe like fashion after arresting his main opposition leader Hakaide Hichilema.

The Zambian rule Patriot Front (PF) and Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF have always had strong ties and both parties have attempted to depict the MDC as a “puppet of the West”.

Whilst there was support for the coup in November which ousted Mugabe, Mr Biti reflected, “We didn’t seek to understand what it meant and we didn’t carry out political reform to make sure that another coup does not happen”.

EU observer report supported the MDC’s claims of election rigging, stating the election was held on an "un-level playing field”, giving an unfair advantage to the Zanu-PF through access to state resources and voter intimidation.

Alexander Noyes, an analyst at the US Center for Strategic and International Studies, expressed doubts over the prospects of success for the MDC’s legal challenge however, given the courts' "long-held bias" towards ZANU-PF.

Following the election armed soldiers fired on MDC protestors in the capital killing six people.

The Guardian reported receiving dozens of testimonies detailing how “security forces have since harassed hundreds of MDC leaders and activists, arbitrarily detaining and beating scores of people”. This violence has led many leaders and activists to go into hiding.

Read here, here and here