Relieved M&G owner back in SA

”I am relieved, so relieved,” said an exhausted looking Trevor Ncube, the owner and publisher of the Mail & Guardian, after he landed in Johannesburg on Friday morning, exactly a week after his passport was confiscated by Zimbabwean authorities.

Parliament in August approved changes to the Constitution that allow the state to seize the passports of people perceived to be anti-government.

Ncube, who regularly commutes between South Africa and Zimbabwe, was in Bulawayo on a business and family trip.

Ncube said he was not planning on going back to Zimbabwe ”very soon”.

”This was a very traumatising experience. With this over everyone’s head we must revise my schedule and see how we continue to manage the news,” said Ncube.

”People in Zimbabwe are scared to speak out now. They are scared to write letters to newspapers. It is more than press freedom, it’s about the people’s freedom — the freedom to move where you want to move and to express yourself.”

”In the end everyone must be able to express themselves without fear,” he said.

Ncube said: ”I love Zimbabwe, I would rather stay there than in South Africa. But this was such a painful experience. I am very patriotic and passionate about my country, but now it is about building a normal fearless society in Zimbabwe.”

Ncube’s wife, Nyaratzo, told the M&G Online on Friday morning, just before her husband arrived, that she was very excited to see him.

”It’s only been a week, but it feels like a whole month,” she said. ”First thing I’m going to say to him is: ‘Oh no, they let you out’,” she joked.

Ncube who filed an urgent court application on Monday, had his passport returned on Wednesday.

The respondents in the court application included the Zimbabwean chief immigration officer, the registrar general and the minister of home affairs.

Ncube’s lawyers said the judge ruled that the authorities had ”erred in their conduct”.

”It is declared that the purported invalidation or withdrawal or cancellation of the applicant’s [Ncube] passport is unlawful, null, void and of no force and effect.”

The authorities were ordered not to interfere with Ncube’s possession of his passport without due process and were aslo ordered to pay the costs of the court application.

Ncube appeared to be the first person to have his travel documents taken away from him under new laws when his name appeared on a list of nearly 60 prominent Zimbabweans.

The list includes human rights lawyers Beatrice Mtetwa, Brian Kagoro and Gabriel Shumba, journalists Geoffrey Nyarota, Basildon Peta and Lloyd Mudiwa, leading opposition official Paul Themba Nyathi, trade unionist Raymond Majongwe and former opposition lawmaker Tafadzwa Musekiwa.

On Thursday Mtetwa told the Mail & Guardian Online in an interview that she has a passport from Swaziland.

”Whether they know what passport I hold, I do not know, but the point is that they ought to have checked that the people they put on that list actually do hold valid Zimbabwean passports, so that if they purport to be withdrawing those passports at least they are withdrawing something that exists.”

”The apartheid regime did exactly the same thing, but that did not stop people from travelling.”

Mtetwa said that the she thought the travel ban was a ”silly thing to do on a practical level” and that it would not stop people from travelling or speaking to the press outside the country.

”The Independent and the Standard have been critical of a lot of the governments actions in Zimbabwe and that is a threat for government. So, clearly Trevor Ncube is deemed a threat to the government. I know for a fact that he is independent and has succeeded without patronage,” she said.

Ncube was last week also erroneously placed on the Australian government’s list of Zimbabweans who are under sanction, though he is in negotiations to have his name removed from the list.

Australia, an outspoken critic of the Zimbabwe government, on December 8 acknowledged ”mistakes” in the list of people facing sanctions for cooperating with President Robert Mugabe’s increasingly authoritarian regime.

Ncube said that the Australian embassy in Zimbabwe had phoned him to apologise ”profusely”.

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Reesha Chibba
Guest Author
Elvira Van Noort
Guest Author

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