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High Court annuls passport seizure

THE state’s quest to seize passports of perceived government opponents yesterday suffered a major blow when the High Court issued an order against the state to render null and void the invalidation and withdrawal of Zimind pubisher Trevor

Ncube’s passport seized in Bulawayo last Thursday.

The ruling by Justice Chinembiri Bhunu yesterday followed the refusal by the Attorney-General’s office to sign a consent order granted on Wednesday.

The state argued that a consent order was unnecessary following the return of the passport.

Ncube had filed an application in the High Court to sue the Chief Immigration Officer, the Registrar-General (RG) and the Minister of Home Affairs after the seizure of the passport.

Ncube’s name appeared together with 16 others on two lists of persons prepared by the the RG’s office, showing people whose passports had been invalidated and therefore should be seized. The list includes exiled journalists and prominent human rights lawyer and Zimind director Beatrice Mtetwa.

Authorities last week suggested the list was compiled by former Information minister Jonathan Moyo. They said Moyo had resolved before he left government in February to ensure the passport seizures as part of government’s crackdown against dissent.

However, Moyo denied involvement in the issue yesterday.

“Anyone who believes that will believe anything,’ he said. “Those are naked lies told by Mugabe’s clueless propaganda agents and their handlers who are desperately searching for scapegoats for all their disastrous failures and Stalinist repression.

“There have been too many things falsely blamed on me and I think the time has come for me to expose these charlatans and liars.”

After the seizure of his passport, Ncube on Monday proceeded to file an urgent High Court application opposing the seizure of the passport without due process.

The respondents on Wednesday had agreed to return the passport which they duly handed back to Ncube’s lawyer Sternford Moyo. But through their lawyer Caroline Mudenda of the AG’s office, the respondents opposed the consent order being made against them.

They preferred a resolution of the matter out of court undertaking to pay costs.

Ncube through Moyo challenged this decision by the state and the matter was set down before Justice Bhunu in chambers. Moyo sought a declaratory order to nullify the list drawn up the RG’s office and communicated to the Chief Immigration Officer.

“As long as that list was out there, an order declaring the purported invalidation or withdrawal or cancellation of (Ncube’s) passport to be unlawful was necessary,” said Moyo yesterday. “Furthermore, we submitted that in the absence of a court order, there was nothing to stop the respondents from interfering with the possession of Ncube’s passport.”

He further argued that the very opposition to the consent order by the state, which did not cause the respondents any prejudice, was in itself sinister.

Bhunu observed that the respondents had erred in their conduct. He issued an order declaring that “the purported invalidation or withdrawal or cancellation of the applicant’s passport is unlawful, null, void and of no force and effect”.

He also ordered the respondents not to interfere with Ncube’s possession of his passport without due process.

He however ordered the respondents to pay costs on the normal scale and not the punitive higher scale sought. — Staff writer.

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