Mtetwa battled to stop Meldrum’s deportation


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Lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa who was representing American journalist Andrew Meldrum convinced immigration officials that it was the State and not her client who should have filed an appeal with the Supreme Court so Meldrum had a right to stay in Zimbabwe.

Meldrum had a permanent residence status but immigration officials claimed that his residence permit had expired.

Evans Siziba, a senior immigration officer who interviewed Meldrum, said that he had lied about his profession as he was no longer a journalist but a political correspondent and such activity was not allowed under his residency permit.

 

Full cable:

 

Viewing cable 03HARARE936, IMMIGRATION TROUBLE FOR RESIDENT AMCIT JOURNALIST

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Reference ID

Created

Classification

Origin

03HARARE936

2003-05-14 13:12

UNCLASSIFIED

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000936

 

SIPDIS

 

FOR AF/S RAYNOR, CA/OCS/ACS/AF HOFFSTATTER, CA/P PATT,

AF/PDPA DALTON

 

E.O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: KPAO PHUM

SUBJECT: IMMIGRATION TROUBLE FOR RESIDENT AMCIT JOURNALIST

ANDREW MELDRUM

 

REF: A) 2002 HARARE 1446 B) 2002 HARARE 1643

 

———–

BACKGROUND

———–

 

¶1. Andrew Meldrum is an American citizen with Zimbabwean

permanent residency status. He is also the Harare

correspondent for the Guardian newspaper (UK). He was

charged by Zimbabwe Republic Police in May 2002 (Ref A) for

“publishing falsehoods” under Zimbabwe’s controversial

“Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act”

(AIPPA), but was subsequently cleared of that charge after

a trial in July 2002 (Ref B). The GOZ responded to

Meldrum’s acquittal by slapping him with a deportation

order within minutes of the announcement of the “not

guilty” verdict. However, Meldrum’s attorney successfully

appealed the deportation order in Zimbabwe’s High Court.

 

——————

CURRENT SITUATION

——————

 

¶2. During the evening of May 7, several men approached

Meldrum’s Harare home claiming to be Government of Zimbabwe

immigration officials. The men refused to show

identification to Meldrum’s wife or his lawyer and would

not state the purpose of their inquiry. Meldrum was not at

home, so the unidentified officials demanded that he

present himself at the immigration offices the following

day. Meldrum refused to comply with this request until he

or his lawyer was informed about why immigration wanted to

see him. He has been staying with friends and keeping a

low profile until the situation can be resolved.

 

¶3. Two Guardian newspaper executives (British citizens)

traveled to Zimbabwe on May 9 to assist Meldrum in

resolving his standoff with Zimbabwean immigration. Both

men were given 30-day visas at the Harare airport, but

later in the day were told by immigration officials that

their visas had been revoked and that they had 24 hours to

leave the country. Immigration alleged that the Guardian

executives had incorrectly filled in their immigration

forms and had failed to seek advance permission from

Zimbabwe’s Minister of Home Affairs for “entering the

country to discuss a sensitive issue.”

 

¶4. Meldrum’s attorney, Beatrice Mtetwa, secured an

interview with Zimbabwe’s Chief Immigration Officer, Mr.

Mgwabi, on Monday May 12. Mgwabi claimed that Meldrum’s

High Court order (granted in 2002) allowing him to remain

in Zimbabwe as a permanent resident had expired, as Meldrum

failed to file a further appeal with the Supreme Court of

Zimbabwe. Mtetwa was however able to convince Mgwabi that

it was in fact incumbent upon the GOZ to file an appeal

with the Supreme Court if they so desired, as the High

Court had ruled in Meldrum’s favor. After the interview,

the Chief Immigration Officer did agree with Mtetwa that

the High Court order (granting Meldrum continued permanent

residency) remained in place indefinitely. However, he

insisted that Meldrum come to immigration on May 13th to

meet with another immigration official named Siziba.

 

¶5. Meldrum reported to immigration as instructed on May

13th, accompanied by his attorney and conoff. Senior

immigration officer Siziba refused to allow conoff to

participate in the interview. Siziba and another colleague

first lectured Meldrum about the GOZ’s displeasure with the

type of stories he is writing about Zimbabwe, complaining

that he portrays the country and its government in a

negative light. Siziba then questioned Meldrum about his

original application for permanent residency, filed in

1988, claiming that he misrepresented his profession.

Though all of the forms indicate that Meldrum was (and is)

a journalist, Siziba claims that he is now acting as a

“political correspondent” and that such activity is not

allowed under his residency permit. Siziba kept Meldrum’s

passport and his residency card, and instructed him to

return to immigration on May 14 with a letter further

explaining his current occupation.

 

¶6. Ms. Mtetwa, Meldrum’s lawyer, plans to return to

Immigration today (May 14) to submit the letter as

requested. Post will inform Department of further

developments as they unfold.

 

——-

COMMENT

——-

 

¶7. Andrew Meldrum is the only foreign journalist remaining

in Zimbabwe, and his harassment by GOZ immigration

officials is part of a clear pattern of actions aimed at

silencing critical coverage of events here. In 2001, the

GOZ began its campaign to expel all foreign journalists. A

BBC correspondent (Jonathan Winter) and an Uruguayan

freelancer (Mercedes Sayagues) were the first to go, after

each being visited in the middle of the night by state

security agents and given less than 48 hours to leave the

country. In 2002, Griffin Shea, an American citizen

working for AFP, was denied renewal of his work permit and

also forced to leave. If the GOZ is now able to force

Meldrum out, it will a serious blow to what remains of

press freedom in Zimbabwe.

 

WHITEHEAD

(22 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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