Publisher Trevor Ncube was given his passport back on 14 December after the attorney-general ruled that the seizures were unlawful.
Ncube, however, said the Central Intelligence Organisation had already achieved the desired result as the passport seizures had had a chilling effect on the travel plans of many Zimbabwean opponents of the Robert Mugabe regime.
He himself now had to decide whether he would be more effective remaining in South Africa or returning periodically to Zimbabwe at the risk of losing his freedom of movement.
Ncube said he might have to begin looking into securing a second passport, possibly from South Africa.
Viewing cable 05HARARE1692, ATTORNEY GENERAL CALLS PASSPORT SEIZURES UNLAWFUL;
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C O N F I D E N T I A L HARARE 001692
AF/S FOR B. NEULING
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR C. COURVILLE
AFR/SA FOR E. LOKEN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/31/2010
SUBJECT: ATTORNEY GENERAL CALLS PASSPORT SEIZURES UNLAWFUL;
SOME PASSPORTS RETURNED
REF: (A) HARARE 1681 (B) HARARE 1679
Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell under Section 1.4 b/d
¶1. (C) Trevor Ncube, publisher of Zimbabwe’s independent
Standard and Independent weeklies and South Africa’s Mail and
Guardian, confirmed to the Ambassador on December 15 that GOZ
authorities had returned his seized passport (ref B) on
December 14. Ncube reported that he would be leaving for
South Africa the next day. (See septel for report of other
¶2. (C) Ncube said that as reported in the press, the
Attorney General’s office (AG) had indeed concluded that the
seizures were unlawful and had ordered all seized passports
returned, pending the legislature’s enactment of a statute to
implement the constitutional amendment authorizing the
seizure of passports. (N.B. Authorities also returned
opposition figure Paul Themba Nyathi’s passport on December
14, but the same day seized the passport of ZCTU leader
Raymond Majongwe, which has yet to be returned.)
¶3. (C) Ncube said that immigration officials, acting at the
behest of the Central Intelligence Organization (CIO) had
refused to release his passport despite the AG ruling. Ncube
and his attorney, former Legal Society President Sternford
Moyo, had been compelled to pursue the court case they had
filed two days earlier. The judge in the case, Chinembiri
Bhunu, had ruled in his favor and had ordered the government
to return the passport and pay Ncube,s court fees. Ncube
expressed surprise at the ruling, noting that Bhunu was a war
veteran who could have been expected to side with the GOZ.
¶4. (C) Ncube said had been told by a source in the CIO that
he was the real target of the list and that the “securicrats”
in the GOZ were determined to go after the independent press.
He believed the elements in the government that had
advocated seizing the passports had acted prematurely. This
had given other elements within ZANU-PF who opposed the new
policy time to mobilize. It was not at all clear that an
implementing act could or would be passed.
¶5. (C) That said, Ncube concluded that the CIO had already
achieved the desired result as the passport seizures had had
a chilling effect on the travel plans of many Zimbabwean
opponents of the regime. He himself now had to decide
whether he would be more effective remaining in South Africa
or returning periodically to Zimbabwe at the risk of losing
his freedom of movement. In that regard, he said he might
have to begin looking into securing a second passport,
possibly from South Africa.
¶6. (C) COMMENT: Coming on the heels of a ruling party
resolution urging aggressive seizure of the passports of
Zimbabwe’s internal “demonizers” (ref A), the AG’s action is
further evidence of disarray within the government in
implementing policy. It may also be indicative of something
more positive, that pockets of resistance remain within the
GOZ to the trampling of civil liberties by the security