Govt impounds Ncube’s passport

IMMIGRATION authorities yesterday seized Zimbabwe Independent and Standard newspapers chairman Trevor Ncube’s passport soon after his arrival in the country from South Africa.



, sans-serif”>This is thought to presage a new crackdown on what remains of the free press. He was told he was on a list of 64 people whose passports should be impounded.


Ncube, who is based in Johannesburg where he publishes the weekly Mail & Guardian, said his passport was impounded by immigration officers soon after he landed at Bulawayo airport.


Ncube had come in on an SA Airlink flight which arrived at 14:50pm from Johannesburg. The incident happened between 3:15 and 3:30pm as he was leaving the airport.


“I arrived and got my passport stamped at immigration without any problems. However, as I was heading towards the customs department, I was stopped by a lady who asked what my name was,” Ncube said.


“I told her I was Trevor Ncube and she went away to consult with an officer in the immigration department. The officer phoned someone and I heard him confirming I was the one they were talking about.”


Ncube said after that he walked out to his car to go home with his family.

“When we were about to leave, the same officer came and asked to see my passport. I asked him if there was any problem and he said there was none,” Ncube said.


“I also asked who he was and he told me he was from the President’s Office. He showed me an ID which said he was from the CIO (Central Intelligence Organisation),” Ncube said.


“After that I got out of the car and together we went back to immigration where my passport was confiscated. They said I was one of the people on a list of 64 persons whose passports must be impounded.”


Zimbabwe recently passed a controversial constitutional amendment that gives government powers to seize the passports of citizens suspected of undermining “national interests” during their travels abroad.


It was widely feared the law would be used to punish government critics, especially those in opposition parties, the press and civil society.


Although Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa assured the nation no exit visas would be introduced under the law as speculated, government maintains it has the right to take passports of citizens accused of undermining “state interests” because the travel documents are state property.


Principal immigration officer Elasto Mugwadi said yesterday he could not comment because the issue concerned the Registrar-General’s office, which deals with passports, citizenship and birth certificates.


“Call the Registrar-General’s office about that issue because he is the one who issues passports,” Mugwadi said. He did not say whether immigration should account for its officers’ actions.


Yesterday’s incident came as Ncube’s name was included on a list of prominent people forbidden to do business with the Australian Reserve Bank. – Staff Writer.

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