Passport for Ncube

HARARE - Zimbabwe's high court ordered the registrar general yesterday to reinstate the citizenship of a leading newspaper publisher and issue him a new passport.

Trevor Ncube, pictured right, who publishes two weekly newspapers in Zimbabwe as well as South Africa's Mail & Guardian, was stripped of his citizenship and denied a new passport last year on the grounds that he was a Zambian citizen by descent.

Zimbabwean law prohibits dual citizenship.

In the ruling, Judge Chinembiri Bhunu said there was no legal justification to deny Ncube, a critic of President Robert Mugabe, citizenship or the travel document, and he ordered registrar general Tobaiwa Mudede to give Ncube a passport and not to interfere with his use of it.

"It is accordingly ordered that Ncube is a citizen of Zimbabwe by birth ... the withdrawal or cancellation of his citizenship is unlawful, null, void and of no force or effect," Bhunu said.

The ruling came after Ncube's lawyer, Stanford Moyo, urged the court to restore his client's Zimbabwean citizenship, saying that he was of Zambian ancestry but had never taken out Zambian citizenship.

Ncube's passport was seized in 2005 after parliament passed a constitutional amendment that allowed the government to impose travel bans on "traitors" or those deemed to be harming national interests.

Critics said the move to confiscate opponents' passports could be a sign of panic in Mugabe's ruling party, which is pushing to extend his 27-year rule to 2010 amid a deepening economic crisis largely blamed on the government's policies. - Reuters