Harare moves to set up law allowing passport seizures

zim_passportHARARE - The Zimbabwe government is frantically working to introduce legislation to enable it to withdraw passports from political opponents and critics, authoritative sources told ZimOnline recently. A senior legal officer at government Attorney General (AG)'s office said state Registrar General To

baiwa Mudede was among senior government officials pushing for legislation to enable the seizure of permits. “Since Mudede was told by the AG’s office that it is illegal for him to just take away people’s passports he has been agitating for the required legislation to be put in place and I can tell that the government is now focusing on this issue as a matter of urgency,” said the legal officer, who spoke anonymously for professional reasons. The officer said it was however impractical that the government could enact such legislation, which he said had not even been drafted, this year. But he would not rule out the possibility of a decree by Mugabe to allow seizure of passports while awaiting the required law to be passed by Parliament. Under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act, Mugabe is allowed to decree laws for a limited period after which such legislation either lapses or is endorsed by Parliament. Efforts to reach both Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and AG Sobuza Gula-Ndebele for comment on the matter were fruitless. Immigration officers last week seized the passport of newspaper publisher Trevor Ncube and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) politician Paul Themba Nyathi saying their names appeared on a list of people whose travel documents should be impounded. But they had to return Ncube’s passport after conceding that they had no legal right to impound it while Nyathi’s passport was only returned when a court ruled that the immigration department had acted without the required legal backing. The government was still holding onto trade unionist Raymond Majongwe’s passport which they seized on Wednesday last week but was expected to return it. The Harare government says it needs to ban several leaders of the opposition, journalists and officials of civic society groups from travelling abroad to prevent them from campaigning for international sanctions against Mugabe and top officials of his government. The Zimbabwean leader and his top officials are already under special visa and financial sanctions from the United States, European Union countries, New Zealand, Switzerland and Australia for failing to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Political analysts say the seizure of passports of critics and political opponents suggested Mugabe and Zanu (PF), who boosted their hold on power with a landslide victory in a controversial election last month, were panicking in the face of swelling public discontent because of worsening economic hardships. – ZimOnline

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