The High Court in Zambia has ordered the Immigration Department not to deport Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC top official Tendai Biti, but instead avail him before Lady Justice Pixie Yangailo to hear his application for judicial review.
And the Alliance for Community Action (ACA) has condemned Foreign Affairs Minister Joseph Malanji’s decision to deny Biti asylum, citing previous cases where Zambia acted otherwise to help fleeing victims.
Meanwhile Green Party president Peter Sinkamba says Zambia’s move to detain Biti at the border is an embarrassment in the eyes of the International Community.
Biti fled Zimbabwe on Wednesday in the aftermath of the post election violence and is wanted by authorities on grounds that he instigated the bloody revolt, charges which he denies.
However, after crossing the border into Zambia, the Immigration department detained him pending deportation, a move that has attracted condemnation from human rights defenders.
“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 to charges in a legitimate court of law,” said Malanji.
But Biti has since applied for leave to seek judicial review in Zambia against the decision of the Immigration Department that is holding him in custody at the Chirundu border.
“The applicant seeks leave to apply for judicial review pursuant to Order 53 of the Rules of the Supreme Court 1999 edition. Having perused the ex-parte summons for judicial review and the affidavit in support of the same, I allocate the matter to judge P Yangailo. In the meantime, the applicant is to remain in the custody of Zambian Immigration officers who will facilitate his appearance before Judge Yangailo at the High Court in Lusaka at 08:00 hours on the 9th day of August, 2018 for the application to be heard,” read the Court Order obtained by News Diggers!
Biti who is being represented by Malambo and company, Keith Mweemba and PNP Advocates is citing Zambia’s Attorney General Likando Kalaluka as respondent in this matter.
And ACA executive director Laura Miti said she could not understand why Zambia is treating Biti with such hostility.
“I’m wondering why our government would send someone who has run to us. Why can’t we facilitate his leaving into a third country? We have always been known as a country that offers refuge to people who are fleeing. That was our reputation for years, a very good history. And International law actually says we must protect such people. So if we have refused to grant him asylum, then it’s very worrying that we must send Biti back to the country he is running from. Then we raise the issue that he is wanted by the courts of law. I think that is not our place to say,” Miti noted.
“My suggestion is that, alright, government does not want him, maybe it does not want to disturb its relations with Zimbabwe. That’s understood, but we have another option which is to allow Tendai Biti to come through our country and leave to go wherever else he wants. At that point he would be off our hands.”
She recalled that Zambia granted Asylum to Milton Obote of Uganda, and most recently, the Katumbi brothers of Congo DR.
“We need to have a very clear foreign policy. We have kept Moses Katumbi here, before that we kept Milton Obote for years. So while I cant understand our government not wanting to get drawn into Zimbabwe’s matters, I also think that we, by sending Biti back, are actually inserting ourselves in that situation. What we have is an individual who is asking us for asylum. We have refused to grant the asylum, but we should not make it our responsibility to send him back. Let him go to a third country. We can let him in and then give him 24 hours to leave Zambia through our airports into any other country of his choice,” said Miti.
Sinkamba of the Green Party demanded the immediate release of Biti, saying it was putting Zambia in bad light internationally.
“We demand that government grants him political asylum because circumstances surrounding his persecution in Zimbabwe are discriminatory and mere witch-hunt. Additionally, we believe that such action by Government is an embarrassment in the eyes of the international community and only goes to prove incoherence of the Zambian Government on foreign policy. We are aware that Government has in the past protected and even granted asylum to aliens suspected to have committed serious crimes in Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and elsewhere in the world,” Sinkamba noted.
“Government has not categorically stated whether the MDC Alliance leader Tendai Biti entered Zambia legally or illegally. To us, this is a very serious omission because Government has no right to arrest and detain people arbitrarily, whether such people aliens or not. If Biti entered Zambia illegally, then that is one thing. Government security agencies have a duty to arrest, detain and deport illegal immigrants as no alien has a right to enter the country unless such a person does so under special circumstances as outlined in various international laws to which Zambia is a signatory. But if Biti entered Zambia legally, then that is another ball game altogether. The Zambian Government is bound to respect international law.”
He wondered why Zimbabwean Authorities were pursuing Biti, leaving the ZANU-PF leadership that made threatening remarks against the electoral code of conduct in that country.
“As the Green Party, we have followed closely events in Zimbabwe before, during and after the election held last week. We are aware that President-Elect Emerson Mnangagwa, MDC Alliance Presidential Candidate Nelson Chamisa and Tendai Biti made public statements last week during the counting and verification process of ballots, which statements were reported in various media outlets. We followed closely commentaries on the statements, which we have kept for record, and we are convinced beyond reasonable doubt that the three statements bordered on breach of the electoral laws of Zimbabwe. We are also aware that up to date, neither Mnangagwa nor Chamisa are being pursued by Government security agencies for the said public statements. Under the circumstances, it is our considered view that pursuing Biti leaving Mnangagwa and Chamisa is application of double standards. In our view, this is not only a witch-hunt but also biased application of law,” said Sinkamba.
“In this regard, it is our considered view as the Green Party that the Zambian Government should not be part and parcel of such witch-hunt and biased application of law. We think that Biti has a meritorious case to run away from Zimbabwe as he is being pursued in a discriminatory and unfair manner. We think that the Zambian Government is under international law to protect him and grant him political asylum. And finally, we think that he is not a danger to the Zambian society. We think that by any standard, Biti is far much better as asylum seeker than some of the criminals that Government of the Republic of Zambia has protected under the auspices of international law.
Meanwhile reports which have not been independently verified by News Diggers! say that the Immigration Department has gone ahead to deport Biti.
It is reported that the Zambian Authorities handed Biti to Zimbabwe at 06:00 hours despite being served the court order at 04:00 hours.