Court ‘abandons’ case against Ncube

Zimbabwe’s government ”abandoned” its court case against Mail & Guardian chief executive Trevor Ncube on Thursday after it had prevented him at the end of last year from renewing his passport, claiming he was not a citizen of Zimbabwe.

Ncube publishes the Standard and the Zimbabwe Independent in that country.

”The initial argument has indeed been abandoned, having considered the correct position in law regarding his citizenship status,” said a member of the defence counsel from the Attorney General’s office.

Ncube told the Mail & Guardian Online shortly after the judgement that his faith in the Zimbabwean judiciary had been vindicated.

”The courts have stopped the gross abuse of power by the Registrar General, Mr Tobaiwa Mudede,” he said. ”However, more importantly, this decision by the court make it clear that all those Zimbabweans who parents were born outside Zimbabwe need not fear further harassment and abuse from the Registrar General’s office regarding the legitimacy of their citizenship.”

Ncube estimated there are 1,5-million Zimbabwean citizens whose parents are of foreign extraction and who have lived in fear of being denationalised.

”The attempt to use citizenship as a tool to fight perceived political enemies and to settle personal scores must be condemned in the strongest sense,” he said. ”I think the greatest winner today is the rule of law in Zimbabwe.”


The High Court ruled that Ncube is a citizen of Zimbabwe by birth, and that the withdrawal or cancellation of his citizenship by the respondents was ”unlawful, null, void and of no force and effect”.

It ordered the respondents not to interfere with Ncube’s possession and use of his passport and decreed that the passport be renewed within seven days of service of the court order. The respondents were also ordered to pay the costs of the court application.

Justice Chinembiri Bhunu was highly critical of the conduct of the Registrar General’s office. He said the Registrar General’s refusal to renew Ncube’s passport was contemptuous of a High Court order made in December 2005 interdicting government interference with Ncube’s right to possess his passport.

The Registrar General’s statements suggesting that a subsisting High Court order was now irrelevant were ”alarming”, the judge said, adding that it was necessary to award costs on a higher scale as a mark of the court’s displeasure.

Stanford Moyo, Ncube’s lawyer, had appealed to Bhunu to award costs at a higher scale, arguing that the respondents had taken a deliberate move to deny Ncube his citizenship without seeking advice from legal experts, including the Attorney General’s office.

‘Abuse of office’

Moyo told the court that he commended the stance taken by the Attorney General’s office, saying Mudede appeared to be the only obstacle in the case. He said Mudede’s stance smacked of gross abuse of office. ”There can be no doubt that that the applicant [Ncube] was subjected to unnecessary, unlawful and bureaucratic attempt to denationalise him by the respondent.

”It’s clearly an abuse of public office. It is commendable the [Attorney General’s] office has taken the decision to abandon the Registrar General’s opposition to this application.”

However, government lawyers argued that it had not been an abuse of office. They said delays in concluding the case were partly due to Ncube, whom they accused of dragging his heels in providing proof that he was a Zimbabwean citizen.

”The onus was on the applicant to rebut this. He only did so about three days ago, in fact on January 23 2007. I urge the court not to penalise the respondents for an act that was deliberate,” argued one government lawyer.

Ncube, the publisher of the Zimbabwe Independent, the Standard and South Africa’s Mail & Guardian, was contesting Mudede’s attempts to strip him of his Zimbabwean citizenship on the basis that he is of Zambian descent.

The Registrar General had argued that Ncube was a Zambian by descent, and his failure to renounce his Zambian citizenship within the prescribed period — between July 6 and January 6 2002 — meant he had automatically forfeited his Zimbabwean citizenship.

We make it make sense

If this story helped you navigate your world, subscribe to the M&G today for just R30 for the first three months

Subscribers get access to all our best journalism, subscriber-only newsletters, events and a weekly cryptic crossword.”

Guest Author

Related stories


Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Latest stories

Links between colleges, industry vital

Weak partnerships with industry and poor curriculum choices are among the factors driving unemployment among graduates

‘South Africa on a path to unjust transition’

The country needs a greener economy but energy specialists say policymakers must ensure the creation of a fairer economy in the process

Whistleblower helps SIU in diamonds corruption raid

The SIU alleges fraud and graft in state mining company's procurement

SA Mint launches rhino coin

The coins are produced in limited quantities ranging from 500 to 2 000, depending on the demand

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…