Opposition MDC Alliance vice president Tendai Biti was briefly detained by police in Karoi on Saturday amid death threats over his criticism of the way government is handling the Covid-19 pandemic, his lawyers said.
Biti appears to have touched a raw nerve after panning the establishment for fumbling its coronavirus response following multiple deaths of current and former government officials this week.
“With compatriots dropping like flies, it’s shocking that the regime has no plan or program for Covid-19 vaccines,” the outspoken politician tweeted Friday.
“Insanely the 2021 budget failed to provide any funds for vaccine purchases. So Zimbabwe suffers from misgovernance. Other countries face pandemics. Zimbabwe faces a plan-demic.”
The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said it received a “distress call” from Biti early in the day informing them about his arrest in Karoi before he was released.
“He was not informed of any charge. He was eventually released without any charges against him. Biti has since advised us that he has been receiving death threats,” the ZLHR said.
Earlier, according to the attorneys, Biti had had “a heated telephone conversation with a person identifying himself as Gakanjwe quizzing him about tweeting on government’s failure to deal with Covid-19.”
And late in the day, the lawyers reported unknown characters defacing the entrance to Biti’s law firm in Harare with “threatening messages” after the opposition politician was “mentioned in a Zanu PF press statement on Covid-19.”
“At about 16:00 hours we received another distress call that some unidentified people; two men and a woman were affixing cardboard boxes with threatening messages,” the lawyers said.
Both Biti and police spokesperson Paul Nyathi were not immediately available for comment.
Biti, a Member of Parliament for Harare East constituency, is no stranger to such threats – thought to be orchestrated by the State security apparatus.
During his time as finance minister in 2009, he received a letter containing a live bullet with a warning to “prepare your will.”