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Zimbabwe Publisher Seeks Court Relief in Passport Seizure

Zimbabwean newspaper publisher Trevor Ncube awaited a decision from Zimbabwe's High Court on whether it will hear his case challenging the government’s seizure last week of his passport in a crackdown on those criticizing the state while abroad.

Lawyers for Mr. Ncube, who publishes the Independent and Standard weekly papers in Zimbabwe and the Mail & Guardian weekly in Johannesburg, served legal papers Monday on the home affairs minister, immigration chief and registrar general.

Authorities confiscated Mr. Ncube’s passport last Wednesday on his arrival from South Africa at the airport in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second-largest city, a day later seizing the passport of Paul Themba Nyathi, a senior official of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, also arriving in the country at Bulawayo International Airport.

Mr. Ncube said that at the time his passport was seized, he was shown a list of some 60 people slated for seizure of passports under a constitutional amendment rammed through parliament earlier this year by the ruling ZANU-PF party’s supermajority.

Others on the list included National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku, human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa, former Crisis Coalition chairman Brian Kagoro, South Africa based communications executive Strive Masiyiwa, former Daily News editor-in-chief Geoffrey Nyarota and VOA reporter Carole Gombakomba.

Reporter Jonga Kandemiiri for VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe spoke with Mr. Ncube about his response to this curtailment of his freedom of movement – according to Mr. Ncube’s Mail & Guardian newspaper he has been barred from leaving Zimbabwe.

Mr. Nyathi told reporter Kandemiiri that he believes he was singled out by the state as part of a “divide-and-rule” strategy, but did not intend to be silenced by the move.

Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga confirmed that the government had seized the passports of the two men. But he told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he had no knowledge of a list of targeted individuals.

Observers in the opposition, academia and civil society condemned the government's actions as violations of human and civil rights despite the constitutional amendment providing for such action by the state, both for the restriction on freedom of movement and the attempted restriction of freedom of speech implicit in such retaliation.

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported from Harare on the reaction in the country to this latest escalation of official measures against critics of the government.

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