Zimbabwean authorities have deported Stephen Chan, a professor of world politics at the University of London, who had arrived in the country on Sunday. Chan, who is also an advisor to opposition leader Nelson Chamisa, was allegedly planning to train and lead militants to incite violent protests ahead of the upcoming elections.
Chan was arrested at the Robert Mugabe International Airport and held for several hours before being put on a flight back to London. He was reportedly travelling under the guise of a karate sensei and the head of Jindokai Karate and Kobudo Association, but failed to comply with the necessary regulations and fees required by the Sports and Recreation Commission.
The state-owned Herald newspaper had earlier published a report, quoting “confidential security sources”, that accused Chan of harbouring ulterior motives to sow discord in the event that election results do not favour the opposition. The report labelled him as a government critic who had previously criticised the fairness of the elections, echoing Chamisa’s pessimistic viewpoint.
The report also claimed that Chan had employed his martial artist peers, including Kyoshi and Jindokai Old Hararians leader Paul Danisa, to camouflage his presence. Danisa was said to be the “host” of Chan’s visit, but in reality, he was part of the plot to train insurgents. The report said that Chan’s arrival would mark the commencement of militant training on August 21.
Chan has denied the allegations and said that he was in Zimbabwe to conduct academic research and teach karate. He said that he had visited Zimbabwe several times before and had never faced any problems. He also said that he had no political affiliation with Chamisa or any other opposition party.
“I am an academic and a karate teacher. I have nothing to do with politics or violence. I have been coming to Zimbabwe for many years and I have always respected the laws and customs of the country. I don’t know why they are doing this to me,” Chan told reporters before boarding his flight.
Chan’s deportation has sparked outrage among human rights activists, academics and opposition supporters, who have condemned the government’s crackdown on dissent and freedom of expression. They have also questioned the credibility of the upcoming elections, which are scheduled for October 31.
“This is a clear sign of intimidation and harassment by the government. They are afraid of independent voices and critical analysis. They are trying to silence anyone who dares to challenge their legitimacy and authority. This is not how a democracy works,” said Dewa Mavhinga, the Southern Africa director of Human Rights Watch.
“Professor Chan is a respected scholar and a friend of Zimbabwe. He has contributed immensely to our understanding of the political and social dynamics of our country. He has also been a mentor and a teacher to many young Zimbabweans who aspire to learn karate. His deportation is unjustified and unacceptable,” said CCC Spokesperson, Fadzayi Mahere.
Chan is a well-known expert on African politics and international relations. He has written several books on Zimbabwe, including Robert Mugabe: A Life of Power and Violence (2003) and Citizen of Zimbabwe: Conversations with Morgan Tsvangirai (2010). He has also observed several elections in Africa, including Zimbabwe’s 2008 polls, which were marred by violence and disputed results.