An aide to Tanzania’s presidential candidate Bernard Membe was taken into custody by police on Tuesday with news of his arrest only emerging on Wednesday afternoon.
The former Minister of Foreign Affairs is the flagbearer of the opposition party Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT-Wazalendo).
Mr Membe, along with his aide Jerome Luanda, arrived from Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, where he was rumoured to have fled following his impromptu departure.
Mr Luanda spent the night in police custody for yet to be known reasons.
Upon arrival at the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam on Tuesday afternoon, Mr Membe told journalists that they had been extensively screened by immigration officials.
He also allayed speculations that he had fled, saying instead he went to attend a key meeting and took advantage of the trip to also seek medical attention.
“I am aware of the circulating speculations about my whereabouts. However, let me be clear about this, I am a board member of one of the biggest companies in Dubai. Therefore, I usually visit Dubai four times a year,” he said.
“I failed to attend the last two board meetings due to the Covid-19 outbreak. While in Dubai, I also used the opportunity to do a medical checkup. I can declare that I am healthy and ready to continue with the election campaigns.”
The election is scheduled for October 28.
An hour after the press briefing, Mr Membe was still at the airport and was seen holed up in his car. He was also heard asking about the whereabouts of his aide Mr Luanda who had yet to emerge from the arrivals terminal.
At some point, Mr Membe alighted from his car headed for the arrivals lounge.
In his address to journalists earlier, Mr Membe had said that after the screening, the authorities had “found nothing because we were not born yesterday.”
He did not say what the immigration officers were looking for, but when a journalist asked him whether he went to Dubai to look for donations he quipped: “Are you the one who was searching me there?”
“Airport immigration officials searched page after page, clothe after clothe, hat after hat and shoe after shoe, but we were not born yesterday,” he said.
Dar es Salaam Special Zone Police Commander Lazaro Mambosasa could not be reached for comment but ACT-Wazalendo insiders told The EastAfrican that Mr Luanda had indeed been arrested.
Mr Membe tweeted saying Mr Luanda had been kidnapped after landing at JNIA and gave an ultimatum for the “kidnapper” to release him before 4pm on Wednesday. He is expected to address the media then.
Additional reporting by Bakari Kiango, The Citizen.