According to information provided to IPI, on 8 December, Trevor Ncube, publisher of the South African Mail and Guardian newspaper, as well as Zimbabwe’s The Standard and Zimbabwean Independent newspapers, had his passport confiscated by a plainclothes member of the Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
Speaking about the incident, Ncube said that he had already gone through the immigration checkpoint, and was about to leave the airport, when a woman from the Immigration Services approached him and asked to see his passport once again. Ncube was then allowed to leave the airport, but on doing so, a CIO officer identified himself and confiscated the publisher’s passport.
The incident happened at Bulawayo airport after Ncube had flown to Zimbabwe’s second city from South Africa. When discussing the incident with sources in Bulawayo, the publisher was told that his passport was seized because his name appears on a list of 64 prominent businessmen, journalists, politicians, and activists. The list is thought to concentrate on those individuals who reside outside the country.
It is believed that Ncube’s passport was confiscated under a constitutional amendment that allows the state to confiscate passports or impose travel bans on those believed to represent a threat to the Zimbabwean state. President Robert Mugabe gained the two-thirds majority needed to make the amendment to the Constitution in the March parliamentary elections.
Ncube has homes in Johannesburg and Harare and is now fearful that if he returns to South Africa he will then be prevented from returning to Zimbabwe. After visiting the Immigration Services to inquire about his passport, Ncube was told to return on 9 December.
Speaking about the incident, IPI Director Johann P. Fritz said, “The confiscation of Ncube’s passport is yet another depressing sign of the lengths the Zimbabwean government will go to suppress its critics.”
“Ncube’s media have often criticised members of government and the use of a Constitutional amendment to prevent his free movement is draconian and shows that rather than drafting laws in support of free expression, the government is intent on passing repressive laws that silence the country’s citizens,” said Fritz.
“I call on the authorities to return Ncube’s passport and for him to be allowed to carry on his work free of all harassment and intimidation.”
Link to IFEX website.