Zimbabwe security authorities on Thursday seized the passport of one of the country’s leading newspaper publishers, apparently under a new law allowing the government to block travel by its critics, the publisher said.
Trevor Ncube, who owns Zimbabwe’s largest private newspaper group and also publishes South Africa’s Mail and Guardian newspaper, told Reuters his passport had been taken after he arrived at the airport by a man who identified himself as an officer from Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organization.
President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF in August used its parliamentary majority to push through a set of constitutional changes that critics say further entrenches his rule — among them a new provision allowing the government to impose travel bans on “traitors."
Name on list of government critics
Ncube, who is based in South Africa, said he was stopped upon arriving in Zimbabwe’s second city of Bulawayo with his family on a trip to attend a wedding.
“I’d passed through the immigration processes and when I was just about to leave the airport, a woman immigration officer ran after me and asked to look at my passport again.”
Ncube said the immigration officer was talking to a man in plainclothes who was on a cell phone, and said she wanted to confirm that he was Trevor Ncube.
While he was then allowed to leave the airport building, he was stopped again outside by the man in plainclothes who identified himself as an official with the Central Intelligence Organization and took his passport.
Ncube said he was later told by other sources in Bulawayo that his passport had been seized because his name appeared on a list of up to 64 Zimbabwean citizens who had been identified as government critics.
Zimbabwe officials have denied media reports they were drawing up a list of those to be subject to the travel ban, and there had been no prior reports of the law being invoked.
Ncube, who has been critical of both Mugabe’s government and the Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said he was allowed to accompany his family home after his passport was taken.
He said he was referred to a senior immigration official in Bulawayo, but he had been unable to reach him.
Officials were not immediately available for comment.