Anti-Mugabe campaign flies back to Zimbabwe

One of the top aides to Zimbabwe’s opposition presidential candidate is returning to the country despite fears that he will almost certainly by arrested.

Tendai Biti, secretary-general the Movement for Democratic Change party, said on boarding a flight in South Africa that he expected to be held on arrival in Harare.

Returning under threat of arrest was “a stupid decision,” he said, but added he believed he had to return to continue the battle for change.

He said he had been informed that he would be arrested but that it was not clear on what charges.

“The only crime I have committed is fighting for democracy,” he said, then hugged an aide and disappeared through the boarding gate.

His party released a statement later saying Mr Biti had received “direct threats of arrest” from president Robert Mugabe’s regime. Zimbabwean officials have said they wanted to question him about the possibility he broke laws by announcing results from the first round of elections on March 29. Under the law, only the state electoral agency can release results.

Mr Biti and other opposition leaders left Zimbabwe soon after the election amid security concerns and have been lobbying support among regional leaders.

The MDC’s presidential candidate, Morgan Tsvangirai, who won the initial round of voting in March, faces Mugabe in a June 27 run-off ballot. His campaign has been beset by violence blamed on Mugabe’s forces.

Mr Tsvangirai, who has said he is the target of a military assassination plot, has only been back in Zimbabwe since May 24 after leaving soon after the first round.

Since returning, he has twice been briefly detained by police as he tried to campaign, and police have stopped several attempts to hold rallies. The state-controlled media have all but ignored him in a country where few have access to the Internet or satellite television.

The opposition, foreign diplomats in Zimbabwe and Zimbabwean and international human rights groups accuse Mugabe of using violence against Mr Tsvangirai’s supporters to ensure Mugabe wins the run-off.

Yesterday United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he was sending a high-ranking envoy to Zimbabwe to help with the election.

Haile Menkerios, a Harvard-educated diplomat and former Eritrean ambassador, is scheduled to visit Zimbabwe from June 16-20 “for discussions on the political situation and the upcoming elections,” Ban’s office said.

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