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Zimbabwe Government Returns Seized Passports


Zimbabwean authorities say an independent newspaper publisher and an opposition party official whose passports had been seized may have them back. But, another government critic has had his passport seized.

Trevor Ncube's passport was released before an application for its return lodged by his lawyer was heard by the High Court.

Mr. Ncube's lawyer, Stanford Moyo, told VOA the attorney general's office is not contesting his application to the court and he could collect his client's passport.

Mr. Ncube is on a list of 64 Zimbabweans whom the government wants to stop from traveling abroad. It says their travel harms the national, defense or economic interests of the state.

A constitutional amendment approved earlier this year allows the government to seize the passports. But Mr. Moyo says the change to the constitution does not make passport seizures legal.

"Constitutional amendment number 17 does not remove the right to freedom of movement. It purports to modify the right to freedom of movement, but the right to freedom of movement remains in section 22 of our constitution," he said. "The right to freedom of movement includes the right to leave one's country, the right to re-enter one's country, the right to enter other countries where one is allowed to enter."

Mr. Moyo said Zimbabwe is also bound by a number of international agreements guaranteeing the freedom of movement of its citizens. He added that the government's action was illegal as they took his client's passport without giving him a chance to defend himself.

Paul Themba-Nyathi, an official of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, was also asked to collect his passport. It was seized on his return from a trip last week to South Africa.

But as the two men were celebrating getting their passports back, another government critic, Raymond Majongwe, who is the secretary general of a teachers union, had his withdrawn. It was seized at Harare International Airport on Mr. Majongwe's return from a trip abroad.

Attempts to get some clarification from the relevant government officials were unsuccessful.

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