"We won't arrest opposition leader," Zimbabwe government promises
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's government said it would not arrest opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai for travelling on an expired travel document, according to state media Thursday.
Tsvangirai, head of the Movement for Democratic Change which won national elections in March, is in Botswana with only an expired emergency travel document (ETD) issued to him last month when he left the country, and he has said he cannot return because he does not have a valid travel document, reported dpa.
He has been denied a passport since early this year, the government claiming it does not have the materials to issue him with a new one. The MDC has pointed out that thousands of other people have been issued passports since Tsvangirai applied.
"The truth of the matter is that he has breached the time scale of his ETD and thinks government may arrest him," government spokesman George Charamba told the state-controlled daily Herald. "There is neither rhyme nor reason to his argument. It's plain silly."
After he left the country, Tsvangirai flew to Morocco where he was presented with a award for services to human rights. He then went to France where he was issued with a laissez-passer, a diplomatic document which allowed him also to travel to Germany, whose membership of the European Union allows people to cross freely between member states' shared borders.
He then flew into South Africa which refused to allow him to fly back home. Instead, he went to Botswana which has a customs union agreement with South Africa which allows free travel across their joint borders.
Ironically, Tsvangirai is prime minister-designate of Zimbabwe. Under the stalled power-sharing agreement with Mugabe's Zanu-PF government, he has been offered shared control of the home affairs ministry, which runs the immigration section that issues passports.
The agreement is stalemated because the MDC insists on having full control of the home affairs ministry, which also controls the police, along with other key ministries. Zanu-PF has offered it only lesser ministries, although it agreed to allocate the finance ministry to the MDC.