November 10, 2007

Opposition leader's passport withdrawn

Zambia has temporarily withdrawn the passport of opposition leader Michael Sata, an arch critic of Lusaka's key ally Beijing who has been lobbying against the Chinese economic presence in Africa, a minister said Saturday. Home Affairs Minister Ronnie Shikapwashya told reporters that Sata's passport had been withdrawn with immediate effect to allow a probe.
"We asked him to temporarily surrender his passport because it was issued without following procedures," Shikapwashya said. He said the opposition leader, a vocal government critic, had been interrogated and cautioned by police over the matter and could be arrested if sufficient evidence was gathered against him.
Before, Sata had lost his passport while in London en route to the United States but quickly returned to Zambia and got a new passport without following the procedures, the minister said. Shikapwashya said Sata failed to provide necessary documents to prove his claim that he lost his passport and needed a replacement. The controversial opposition leader has been making international trips to campaign against China's growing influence in Africa and is accused of receiving money from Taiwan for his mission. Sata had threatened to expel Chinese traders from Zambia if elected president in 2006. Bilateral trade between Zambia and China, the third-largest foreign investor in the country, grew by 11.8 percent last year to 316 million dollars, according to the Zambia-China Business Forum. There are about 180 Chinese firms doing business in the southern African nation. (Rts)

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