Handcuffed Zimbabwe politician in court

Zimbabwean opposition politician Tendai Biti has appeared in court in handcuffs on charges of inciting violence after he was deported from Zambia.

Zambia’s government rejected Mr Biti’s request for asylum on Wednesday.

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa said Mr Biti had been released on bail following his intervention.

Prosecutors accuse Mr Biti of fuelling illegal protests by rejecting Mr Mnangagwa’s victory in the fiercely contested elections on 30 July.

At least six people were killed two days after the vote in clashes between security forces and MDC Alliance supporters who alleged that their leader, Nelson Chamisa, had been robbed of victory.

There was great optimism that the elections would bring real change after the end of Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule in November.

But the MDC Alliance says the security forces have launched a brutal crackdown on the opposition following the disputed poll.

Mr Biti is the first senior opposition politician to be detained since Mr Mnangagwa took over from Mr Mugabe.

A handcuffed Mr Biti was brought to court in the capital, Harare, under a strong police presence.

Prosecutors say he falsely declared Mr Chamisa the winner of the election, and encouraged his supporters to damage property during protests against the election results.

Mr Biti was freed on $5,000 (£4,300) bail, and ordered to surrender his passport.

“We will keep on fighting,” he told reporters.

In a tweet, Mr Mnangagwa said his intervention led to Mr Biti’s release.

“At such a crucial time in the history of the new Zimbabwe, nothing is more important than unity, peace and dialogue,” he added.

However, Mr Mnangagwa said that because of the “serious nature of the allegations” against Mr Biti, “due process will continue”.

Meanwhile, the UN refugee agency said it was “gravely concerned” by reports that Mr Biti had been deported while trying to claim asylum in Zambia.

“Forcibly returning refugees and asylum-seekers to their country of origin is a serious violation of international refugee law,” the agency said in a statement.

Mr Biti’s lawyer Gilbert Phiri said Zambia’s High Court ruled on Wednesday night that Mr Biti should not be deported until a “judicial review” of the government’s decision to reject his asylum application.

However, Zambian immigration and police officers refused to accept the court papers, and surrendered him to Zimbabwean law enforcement officers at the Chirundu border post, about 350km (220 miles) north of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, Mr Phiri said.

The Zambian government has probably taken its revenge on Mr Biti by deporting him to Zimbabwe.

Mr Biti came to Zambia last year to show solidarity with opposition leader Hakaide Hichilema after he was arrested on treason charges.

He was scathing in his criticism of Zambia’s President Edgar Lungu, accusing him of behaving like then-President Mugabe by targeting Mr Hichilema. So, it is not surprising that Zambia has deported him.

Zambia’s ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party has always been a staunch ally of Zanu-PF, which has been in power since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980. Its founding leader, the late Michael Sata, was inspired by Mr Mugabe, and like him regarded the MDC as a “puppet of the West”.

When Mr Sata formed the party in 2001, he named it PF to signal that it would forge close ties with Zanu-PF. The relationship remains strong some 17 years later, albeit with new leaders at the helm of the two parties.

Mr Biti is the most senior opposition leader to be detained since Mr Mnangagwa took office.

On Wednesday, Zambia’s Foreign Minister Joe Malanji told the BBC that Mr Biti’s grounds for asylum were weak.

The police are hunting for eight other senior opposition officials in connection with post-election violence.

The MDC Alliance has confirmed that it will challenge the presidential election result in court, saying it was marred by “mammoth theft and fraud”.

The electoral commission says there was “absolutely no skulduggery”.

Mr Mnangagwa obtained 50.8% of the vote, compared with Mr Chamisa’s 44.3%. The remaining votes went to 21 other candidates.

Mr Biti was the minister of finance in a unity government formed after disputed elections in 2008 – and is credited with helping stabilise the economy after years of hyperinflation.

 

BBC

Zimbabwe police arrest top opposition leader

A senior member of Zimbabwe’s opposition MDC Alliance, Tendai Biti, has been arrested at the border with Zambia, his lawyer is quoted as saying.

Police had issued a search warrant for Mr Biti, accusing him of “unlawfully” announcing that his party’s leader, Nelson Chamisa, won last Monday’s presidential election.

He is also accused of inciting the violence when MDC Alliance supporters clashed with security forces two days later, leaving six people dead.

His lawyer, Nqobizitha Mlilo, told the AFP news agency that Mr Biti had been heading to Zambia to seek asylum.

Mr Biti was the minister of finance in a unity government that was formed after disputed elections in 2008 – and is credited with helping stabilise the economy after years of hyperinflation.

The election was won by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, but the opposition says the result was rigged.

BBC

Zimbabwe election: Emmerson Mnangagwa wins election

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has won Zimbabwe’s presidential election, according to the country’s electoral commission.

With all 10 provinces declared, Mr Mnangagwa won 50.8% of votes to 44.3% for opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.

Police removed opposition officials from the electoral commission stage when they rejected the results.

The chairman of Mr Chamisa’s MDC Alliance said the count could not be verified.

By narrowly winning more than 50% of the vote, Mr Mnangagwa avoids a second run-off election against Mr Chamisa.

The president said he was “humbled” on Twitter, and called the result “a new beginning”.

Mr Mnangagwa from the ruling Zanu-PF party took over as president last November from long-serving leader Robert Mugabe.

Mr Chamisa has insisted he has won the presidential poll, telling reporters earlier on Thursday the ruling Zanu-PF party was “trying to bastardise the result”, something that “we will not allow”.

But the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) said there was “absolutely no skulduggery”.

Mr Mnangagwa's supporters celebrating after the results were announced

Opposition supporters protested in Harare over alleged vote-rigging, which led to six deaths on Wednesday.

The elections were the first since long-time ruler Robert Mugabe, 94, was ousted in November last year.

The polls were intended to set Zimbabwe on a new path following Mr Mugabe’s repressive rule.

Harare was a ghost town on Thursday following Wednesday’s violence, as troops patrolled the city centre ordering people to “behave”.

A supporter of the ruling ZANU-PF walks past a burnt vehicle at the party"s offices a day after the clashes between security forces and opposition protesters in Harare, Zimbabwe, August 2, 2018

Mr Mnangagwa said the government was in talks with Mr Chamisa to defuse the crisis and proposed an independent investigation to bring those who were behind the violence to justice.

“This land is home to all of us, and we will sink or swim together,” Mr Mnangagwa said in a series of tweets.

The day after the election, the MDC Alliance said Mr Chamisa had won the presidential vote, pre-empting an official announcement and prompting its supporters to celebrate in some areas of Harare

When Zec announced that Zanu-PF had won the parliamentary vote by a landslide on Wednesday, things turned nasty.

The opposition supporters were are also angered by the delay in announcing the presidential results.

Home Affairs Minister Obert Mpofu said the government would not tolerate such protests.

The opposition “are testing our resolve, and I think they are making a big mistake”, he said.

A spokesman for Mr Chamisa condemned the deployment of soldiers and the subsequent loss of life.

“Soldiers are trained to kill during war. Are civilians enemies of the state?” he asked.

“There is no explanation whatsoever for the brutality that we saw.”

Zec announced the results from the tenth and final province, Mashonaland West, late on Thursday after days of waiting.

The European Union and Commonwealth missions earlier criticised the delay in announcing the presidential results.

This is the first time in 16 years that the government has allowed EU, Commonwealth and US election monitors into the country.

Graphic showing Zimbabwe presidential vote result July/August 2018

Earlier in the week, Zec announced the parliamentary results, giving Zanu-PF 144 seats, the MDC Alliance, which is made up of seven parties, 64 seats, and the National Patriotic Front, formed by Mugabe loyalists after he was ousted, one.

Although Zanu-PF won by a landslide, its majority has shrunk since the 2013 election when it obtained 160 seats and the MDC, then led by the late Morgan Tsvangirai, 49.

More than five million people were registered to vote in Monday’s poll, and there was a turnout of 70%.

 

BBC

Zimbabwe votes in first post-Mugabe poll

Voters in Zimbabwe are going to the polls in the country’s first election without the involvement of long-time leader Robert Mugabe.

The country’s founding president, Mr Mugabe was ousted in a coup last year after almost four decades in power.

The main contenders in the presidential vote are incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa, of the ruling Zanu-PF party, and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa.

Parliamentary and local elections are also taking place on Monday.

Polls give Mr Mnangagwa, 75, a narrow lead over his 40-year-old rival, who leads the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

On Monday ex-president Robert Mugabe – who first came to power after independence in 1980 – said he would not vote for his successor.

The country is expecting a high turnout of first-time voters, where the youth vote is expected to be key. Almost half of those registered are under the age of 35.

Hundreds of international observers have been deployed to ensure the vote goes smoothly, but the opposition has repeatedly alleged irregularities in the voter roll.

They have also expressed concern over the security of ballot papers and voter intimidation in mainly rural areas.

The election follows decades of repressive rule which has brought severe economic challenges to Zimbabwe.

These include issues of investment, education, healthcare and jobs – some estimates suggest that the unemployment rate is as high as 90%.

President Mnangagwa, who is known as “the crocodile” because of his political shrewdness, has promised to deliver jobs and is seen as open to economic reforms.

Emmerson Mnangagwa

Nelson Chamisa

He has survived several assassination attempts blamed on supporters of Mr Mugabe.

Mr Chamisa, who became an MP at the age of 25, could become Zimbabwe’s youngest president if elected.

He has promised to rebuild the country’s devastated economy, but been criticised for making extravagant promises – such as the introduction of a high-speed bullet train and bringing the Olympics to Zimbabwe.

But the qualified pastor will have been buoyed by comments Mr Mugabe made during a surprise news conference on Sunday.

Mr Mugabe, who resigned in November after the military took control of the country, refused to support his former ally Mr Mnangagwa.

“I cannot vote for those who tormented me,” he said. “I hope the choice of voting tomorrow will thrust away the military government and bring us back to constitutionality,”

When asked by the BBC’s Fergal Keane if he would like to see Mr Chamisa win, Mr Mugabe, 94, indicated that he was the only viable candidate.

In response to the comments, Mr Mnangagwa accused his former boss of making a deal with the opposition.

“It is clear to all that Chamisa has forged a deal with Mugabe, we can no longer believe that his intentions are to transform Zimbabwe and rebuild our nation,” he said.

Mr Mugabe also denied that, as president, he had planned to hand the leadership to his wife, Grace, saying it was “utter nonsense”.

 

BBC

Mugabe breaks silence on Zimbabwe poll

Zimbabwe’s ex-president Robert Mugabe has given a surprise press conference on the eve of the nation’s elections.

Mr Mugabe said he would not support his successor in the Zanu-PF party, Emmerson Mnangagwa, after being forced from office by the “party I founded”.

“I cannot vote for those who tormented me,” he said. “I will make my choice among the other 22 [candidates].”

Zimbabweans go to the polls on Monday in the first vote since Mr Mugabe was ousted in November.

Speaking from his home in the capital, Harare, on Sunday, the former president again said he had been “sacked” as part of a military coup and that he left office in order to “avoid conflict”.

He said that he now wished the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), Nelson Chamisa, well in Monday’s vote.

“He seems to be doing well, and if he is elected I wish him well,” he said.

When asked by the BBC’s Fergal Keane if he would like to see Mr Chamisa gain power in Zimbabwe, Mr Mugabe, 94, indicated that he was the only viable candidate.

Mr Mugabe said: “I hope the choice of voting tomorrow will throw, thrust away the military government and bring us back to constitutionality.

“Let tomorrow be the voice of the people to say never again shall we experience a period where the army is used to thrust one person into power.”

Zimbabwe's former president Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace look on after addressing a news conference at his private residence nicknamed "Blue Roof" in Harare, 29 July 2018

Mr Mugabe also denied that, as president, he had planned to hand the leadership to his wife, Grace, saying it was “utter nonsense”, and suggested that ex-defence minister Sydney Sekeramayi should have taken over.

Mr Mugabe added that, since he was forced from office last year, “the people of Zimbabwe have not been free”.

More than five million Zimbabweans are preparing to go to the polls for what will be the first time in 38 years without Mr Mugabe in power.

They will be voting in presidential, parliamentary and local elections. There are 23 candidates on the presidential ballot.

The cash-strapped and impoverished country, which has known decades of repressive rule, faces severe economic challenges.

These include issues of investment, education, healthcare and jobs – some estimates suggest that the unemployment rate in Zimbabwe is as high as 90%.

Many Zimbabweans have left the country in search of work in South Africa.

The country is expecting a high turnout of first-time voters on Monday, where the youth vote is expected to be key, with almost half of those registered being under the age of 35.

The frontrunners in addressing these challenges are Zanu-PF’s President Mnangagwa, 75, and the MDC’s Mr Chamisa, 40.

President Mnangagwa, who is known as “the crocodile” because of his political shrewdness, has promised to deliver jobs and is seen as open to economic reforms.

He has survived several assassination attempts blamed on supporters of Mr Mugabe.

Mr Chamisa, who became an MP at the age of 25, could become Zimbabwe’s youngest president.

He is known for his wit and humour, and as a lawyer and a pastor his rallies and news conferences have taken on the fervour of a revivalist campaign.

An opinion poll last week saw the MDC close the gap with Zanu-PF from 11 percentage points to three, with 20% of voters undecided. It was only the second of two opinion polls.

 

BBC

Zimbabwe’s President Mnangagwa appeals for racial unity ahead of election

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has called for racial unity ahead of landmark elections, telling white farmers their lands will not be taken.

Former President Robert Mugabe’s government supported the seizure of hundreds of white-owned farms which they saw as unfairly taken by settlers.

But Mr Mnangagwa, 75, told a crowd in Harare that the controversial policy was a thing of the past.

“We should cease to talk about who owns the farm in terms of colour,” he said.

“It is criminal talking about that. A farmer, a black farmer, a white farmer, is a Zimbabwean farmer.”

Mr Mnangagwa’s move to ease the concerns of white voters comes ahead of historic elections on 30 July.

It will be the first presidential poll since Mr Mugabe was ousted from power in November, bringing an end to his 37-year rule.

White Zimbabweans have traditionally voted for opposition parties such as the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) as opposed to Mr Mnangagwa’s Zanu-PF party.

He told the crowd that his government was “racially blind” and acknowledged the failure of his predecessor’s controversial land reforms.

The farm seizures led to a crash in Zimbabwe’s agricultural output, an exodus of skilled white farmers and widespread unemployment among black farm labourers.

There are more than 120 political parties registered for this month’s elections, and there are likely to be 23 presidential candidates to choose from on the ballot.

Mr Mnangagwa is favourite to win the poll, but analysts say he also has enemies – both for overthrowing his former mentor and for being a previous enforcer of Mr Mugabe’s government.

The main opposition leader is Nelson Chamisa, 40, a lawyer and preacher who rose to the top of the MDC in February.

He is hugely popular, especially among the young and unemployed, and would become the country’s youngest ever president if elected.

The youth vote is expected to be key. More than half of Zimbabweans are now under 25 and about 43.5% of registered voters are under 35.

 

BBC

Ex-Zimbabwe footballer jailed for false maternity claims

A former Zimbabwean footballer is among 12 people who have been sentenced to prison in the UK for plotting to claim more than £450,000 ($586,000) in maternity payments for babies which did not exist.

According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), Liberty Masunda, 43, was sentenced to three years in prison after a jury in Wolverhampton city convicted him of conspiracy to defraud the government.

The 11 other members of the group were given sentences ranging from 14 months to seven years.

“As a result of their actions, there has been a loss to the taxpayer of £450,000 in false payments,” prosecutor Gurminder Sanghera said.

“Many of the defendants denied knowing about the fraud, or that their bank accounts were used. Evidence put forward by the CPS showed they each played an integral part of the scheme and ultimately the jury has found them guilty,” Mr Sanghera added.

Masunda had played for Zimbabwe and South Africa’s Kaizer Chiefs as a striker.

The 12, including members of the same family and their partners and friends, made at least 158 fraudulent applications for maternity allowance over a 52-month period, the CPS said in a statement.

False maternity allowance claims, usually in the names of third parties, were submitted to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the CPS said.

The claim form required a maternity certificate to be completed and submitted. The defendants produced forged certificates by falsifying GP stamps on them, the CPS added.

 

BBC

Zimbabwe ‘recovers $850m looted funds’

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has revealed that his government recovered $850m (£644m) during a three-month moratorium aimed at getting looted funds back, state-owned Herald newspaper reports.

Mr Mnangagwa had announced the recovery plan for an estimated $1.4bn stolen by individuals and businesses after taking office last November.

He made the revelations during discussions about measures being made to fight corruption on the continent at an African Union summit in Mauritania.

The 75-year-old leader – who is the candidate for the ruling Zanu-PF party in the 30 July presidential election – said that his government had also established an anti-corruption court and passed an ethics law.

“Corruption networks are becoming more sophisticated, hence the need to enhance information sharing amongst member-states’ law enforcement agencies and related institutions on the continent and beyond,” Mr Mnagangwa is quoted as telling his peers.

Zimbabwe minister denies losing breast after deadly bomb attack

Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF chairperson Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri was reportedly dismayed by a privately owned newspaper report that she lost her left breast in the bombing at an election rally that killed two people last week.

According to Daily News, Muchinguri-Kashiri, who has been flown to South Africa with the country’s other deputy president Kembo Mohadi, lost her breast in the deadly explosion.

The Zanu-PF chairperson, who also doubles as an Environment, Climate and Water minister, was expected to undergo complex orthopaedic and burn reconstruction surgery at an unnamed South African hospital, says the report.

Muchinguri-Kashiri was also expected to undergo psychological care and counselling during her stay at the hospital.

But according to an award winning Zimbabwean journalist on Facebook Muchinguri-Kashiri has denied the reports.

Hopewell Chin’ono wrote that the minister was quite upset over the reports.

Blast being investigated

Chin’ono also suggested that the newspaper should retract the story, but its chief editor Gift Phiri stood by it, saying the story came from credible sources.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has claimed to have been the target of the explosion, told the media in Tanzania this week that a hand grenade was to blame for the blast, reported AFP.

Investigations are underway into the blast, but security agencies have declined to comment on whether any arrests have been made.

Mnangagwa, who took power from Mugabe last November after a brief military takeover, has accused aggrieved supporters of Mugabe’s wife, Grace, of being behind the attack.

About 50 people were injured in the blast which occurred as Mnangagwa left the podium after addressing supporters of the ruling Zanu-PF party in Bulawayo, the country’s second largest city.

 

news24

Zim VP ‘airlifted to SA for treatment following bombing incident’ – Mnangagwa

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has reportedly revealed that one of his deputies, Kembo Mohadi is in South Africa for medical treatment following a bombing incident in Bulawayo last Saturday.

According to the state-owned Herald newspaper, Mnangagwa said that Mohadi and the ruling Zanu-PF party chairperson Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri, were airlifted to South Africa and were “responding well to treatment”.

An unexplained weekend blast narrowly missed the Mnangagwa himself but killed two bodyguards and injured over 40 people.

The report quoted Mnangagwa as saying that Muchinguri-Kashiri was operated on as shrapnel reportedly pierced through her chest.

G40 political faction

Mnangagwa spoke to BBC earlier this week and said that he suspected a political faction supporting former first lady Grace Mugabe of being behind the attack.

Mnangagwa, however, did not say the former first lady was involved in the blast. He said he expected that arrests would be made soon, an AP report said.

Mnangagwa was fired as longtime leader Robert Mugabe’s deputy in November after he became a target of the first lady’s G40 political faction. The military responded by stepping in and Mugabe resigned, ending 37 years in power.

Zimbabwe now faced a historic July 30 election, the first without Mugabe since independence from white minority rule in 1980.

Mnangagwa was under pressure to deliver a credible vote that Western countries see as key to lifting international sanctions.

 

News24