GOVERNMENT is working on draft regulations to make exit visas mandatory for Zimbabweans going abroad as the state takes steps to curtail freedom of movement.
follows the gazetting of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Act (Number 17) this week. The amendment, among other things, empowers government to withdraw passports from people who are critical of government and are considered a threat to the “national interest”.
Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa this week told Irin that the law would be taken to cabinet for assessment before being introduced in parliament for debate.
Opposition and civic groups in Zimbabwe have warned that the proposed exit visas for citizens would amount to renewed repression of government opponents.Although Chinamasa denied that the proposed regulations were meant as a punitive measure aimed at opponents of the ruling party and government, he admitted that some provisions of the recent constitutional amendments would be used to “contain” political dissidents.
“It is a simple matter,” said Chinamasa. “When a country is under siege, like we are, the first thing is to identify the cause. In our case we find that the country has been demonised and reduced in international status by its own citizens who choose to lie to the world about their own country.
“There is a need for us to protect the country from all forms of attack – verbal and physical.” he said. “Those who are innocent should not be afraid.”
Daniel Molokela, a Zimbabwean lawyer, said it was clear that the proposed exit visa was “intended to limit or stop opponents from travelling”.
“We can prepare for a time when politicians and human rights activists will be denied exit visas, just as newspapers are being denied licences (to publish) right now,” Molokela said.
MDC spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi said the proposed visa regulations were “barbaric”.
“What we have is a government fighting its own citizens through all (the) limitations they can find,” he said. – Irin.