The government seized the passport of publisher Trevor Ncube on 8 December in what was viewed as a crackdown on government critics who were going around demonising the country.
Ncube told American embassy officials that he had been informed by immigration officials that his name was amongst a list of 64 individuals whose passports were to be revoked.
Viewing cable 05HARARE1679, GOZ SEIZES TWO CRITICS, PASSPORTS, EYING MORE
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001679
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/13/2015
SUBJECT: GOZ SEIZES TWO CRITICS, PASSPORTS, EYING MORE
REF: HARARE 001238
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell for reasons 1.5 b/d
¶1. (C) Exercising the power given to it by Constitutional
Amendment 17, the GOZ last week seized the passports of two
regime critics, newspaper publisher Trevor Ncube and deposed
MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi. The seizures comes
amidst the revelation that the GOZ has drafted a list of 64
opposition politicians, civil society leaders, and
journalists whose travel documents should be impounded to
prevent them from leaving the country. End Summary.
A Rude Welcome Home
¶2. (C) Immigration officials at Bulawayo Airport on December
8 seized the passport of Trevor Ncube, the owner and
publisher of independent newspapers the Zimbabwe Independent
and the Standard, and the Mail and Guardian in South Africa.
This marked the first instance of the GOZ using its newly
created constitutional authority to revoke passports of
individuals suspected of intending to undermine &the
national interest8 (ref Harare 1238). Speaking to Post on
December 9, Ncube said that his lawyers were drafting an
urgent application for the release of his passport. Arnold
Tsunga, the director of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights
(ZLHR), that same day told us that his group had filed a
petition on Ncube,s behalf noting that the government had
yet to enact legislation implementing the constitutional
amendment to seize passports.
¶3. (C) Also on December 9, Paul Themba Nyathi ) who was
recently ousted from his position as MDC spokesman because of
his opposition to the party president ) had his passport
seized upon arriving at Bulawayo Airport after traveling to
¶4. (C) In a possibly related incident earlier in the month,
former chairman of Crisis Coalition Brian Kagoro was denied
additional pages in his passport. However, Kagoro, who now
lives in Nairobi, was allowed to leave Zimbabwe with his
Indications of More To Come?
¶5. (C) The two passport seizures come amidst widespread
speculation that potentially dozens more regime critics will
be similarly targeted. The ZANU-PF party conference that
ended on Saturday adopted a resolution that called on
authorities to seize the passports of &traitors(who go
around demonizing the country.8 Meanwhile, Ncube told Post
that immigration officials told him that his name was amongst
a list of 64 individuals whose passports were to be revoked.
Meanwhile, local media sources have published a list of 17
individuals that are reportedly on the GOZ,s travel ban.
The published list includes Nyathi and Kagoro, but does not
¶6. (C) Many of the individuals on the list of 17, however,
are not impacted by the travel ban because they either have
passports issued by other countries or have not traveled to
Zimbabwe in years, according to ZLHR lawyer Otto Saki. Going
through the list, Saki said that only Kagoro and unionist
Raymond Majongwe ) who is due to return from Nigeria on
December 14 ) were realistic targets. For example, he noted
that human rights lawyer Gabriel Shumba had a UN refugee
passport and that businessman Strive Masiyiwa has not held a
valid Zimbabwean passport for several years. In a
conversation with Post on December 13, Human rights lawyer
Beatrice Mtetwa, who is included on the media,s list,
reiterated Saki,s points and said the ban would have no
impact on her since she used a Swazi passport.
¶7. (C) Thus far, the seizures have not been extended to
other likely targets. Outspoken women,s rights activist
Jenni Williams told Post that she used the Plumtree border
crossing from Botswana on December 10 with no incident.
Similarly, a ZLHR delegation headed by Jacob Mafume )
Zimbabwe,s recently named Human Rights Lawyer of the Year )
returned from a meeting of the Africa Commission for Human
Rights in the Gambia last week with passport intact.
¶8. (C) As expected, the GOZ is using the travel ban
provision of the recent constitutional amendment to rein in
perceived critics. We expect that the GOZ will not try to
prevent all critics from traveling so much as to let
selective seizures induce further self-censorship among
Zimbabwe’s cautious and tired democratic forces.