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Zimbabwe Seizes Passports of Publisher, Opposition Figure

Zimbabwean officials Thursday eized the passport of a senior figure in the opposition Movement for Democratic Change at the Bulawayo airport.

Paul Themba Nyathi, spokesman for a faction of the MDC based in Bulawayo, became the second prominent person in two days to have his passport confiscated under a recently passed constitutional amendment. Mr. Nyathi said he was with other MDC officials, but was the only opposition member singled out in this way.

On Wednesday, immigration officials at the Bulawayo airpore seized the passport of Trevor Ncube, publisher of the Zimbabwe Independent and Standard newspapers, the leading independent editorial voices remaining in the country. Mr. Ncube is also the publisher of the Mail & Guardian paper in Johannesburg, where he is based.

Mr. Ncube said immigration officials showed him a list of other individuals slated to lose their passports. These included human rights lawyers Brian Kagoro, Gabriel Shumba and Beatrice Mtetwa, South African-based businessman Strive Masiyiwa and various journalists including Carole Gombakomba, a reporter for VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe and Geoffrey Nyarota, former editor of the Daily News, closed in 2003.

This week’s passport seizures were the first application of a constitutional amendment passed this year by President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party allowing the state to restrict travel by those deemed to have made disloyal statements abroad.

The government had said earlier that it did not did not intend to act preemptively, as it appears to have done in these cases, and earlier denied that it was drawing up a list of people subject to to the seizure of their passports, as it seems to have done.

Reporter Blessing Zulu for VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with Mr. Ncube and asked if he would file a legal challenge to the seizure of his passport.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...