Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the government’s action in drawing up a blacklist of some 60 leading Zimbabweans, some currently living abroad, whose passports are to be confiscated and cancelled to prevent them from travelling abroad any more. They reportedly include independent newspaper owner Trevor Ncube, at least five other independent media personalities, an expatriate lawyer and journalist, and the owner and former executives of the banned Daily News newspaper.
“This new scheme is Kafkaesque,” Reporters Without Borders said. “How repressive can Robert Mugabe’s government get before it is called to account? Zimbabwe is a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and is under South Africa’s influence, yet it is not threatened with any coercive measure over its repeated press violations. Action to help Zimbabweans recover their civil and political liberties is long overdue.”
In a letter from registrar general Tobaiwa Mudede to immigration chief Elasto Mugwadi on 28 November, the government ordered the withdrawal and cancellation of the passports of all persons on “the following list.” A local source said there were 64 names on the list, including businessman Strive Masiyiwa, owner of the Associated Newspapers of Zimbabwe (ANZ), which publishes the Daily News, former Daily News editors Geoffrey Nyarota and Nqobile Nyathi, and Daily News reporters Lloyd Mudiwa and Basildon Peta.
Beatrice Mtetwa, a leading lawyer who won the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 2005 international press freedom prize, and former Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation journalist Caroline Gombakomba, who now works for the Voice of America in the United States, are also on the list, which was sent with an accompanying memo to all border posts.
The measure follows an amendment four months ago to article 22 of the constitution allowing the government to withdraw any citizen’s passport when there is reason to suspect they could harm national interests, defence interests or the state economy when abroad.
9.12.2005 - Government confiscates newspaper publisher’s passport
Reporters Without Borders protested after the Zimbabwe authorities seized the passport of publisher Trevor Ncube and called for it to be immediately returned to him.
The publisher, who is based in South Africa, had his passport taken as he left Bulawayo airport to join a family wedding party.
“There seems to be no end to the array of harassment used against journalists in Zimbabwe”, said Reporters Without Borders. “The use of such draconian methods shows once again the determination of the authorities to put an end to freedom of opinion in Zimbabwe.”
Ncube runs two weeklies in Zimbabwe, The Standard and The Zimbabwe Independent. He also in 2002 bought the majority of shares in the South African weekly Mail and Guardian that previously belonged to the British daily The Guardian. These three publications are all highly critical of President Robert Mugabe.
Two officials from the secret police Central Intelligence Organisation confiscated Ncube’s passport after he had left Bulawayo airport and was preparing to head into the city centre to attend his brother’s wedding.
He was not arrested, but the confiscation of his passport prevents him from leaving the country. He is the first victim of a new constitutional amendment that has, since August, allowed the Zimbabwean authorities to confiscate the passport of any citizen.