Opposition leader asks SA to give pro-Caprivi chief asylum

Akashambata Mbikusita-Lewanika, leader of the Opposition Agenda for Zambia, has asked South Africa to give political asylum to Barotse Patriotic Front (BPF) president, Imasiku Mutangelwa, 'The Post' newspaper in Zambia reported on Thursday.

Mutangelwa fled to the Lusaka residence of South African High Commissioner on Friday night, after being summoned to police headquarters following a statement in which he expressed BPF support for separatists in Namibia's Caprivi Strip which borders Zambia's Barotseland district.

In a letter to Walter Thabethe, the South African High Commissioner to Zambia, Mbikusita- Lewanika said that if people who expressed their political opinions were threatened with police harassment "then they deserve and need to be protected by those who respected human rights."

He added: "The wanton, or ignorant, failure to appreciate and respect this critical historical factor is the root cause of the Barotse-Zambia conflict. This conflict over political oppression, social discrimination and group domination, is accompanied by brutal law enforcement, politicised judicial processes and criminalised political opposition. It is for this reason that I write to add a voice to his request to the government of South Africa for asylum." Mbikusita-Lewanika is a former cabinet minister.

Meanwhile, a South African newspaper, 'The Star', reported on Thursday that Zambian police raided the home of the BDF leader on Tuesday morning, confiscating all the documents they could find.

The BPF, is a separatist movement in Zambia's Western Province which is also sometimes called Barotseland. The province borders the Caprivi region and the people of the two regions are from the same ethnic group, the Lozi.