Cablegate: Immigration Trouble for Resident Amcit Journalist

Published: Wed 14 May 2003 01:12 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: A) 2002 HARARE 1446 B) 2002 HARARE 1643
1. Andrew Meldrum is an American citizen with Zimbabwean
permanent residency status. He is also the Harare
correspondent for the Guardian newspaper (UK). He was
charged by Zimbabwe Republic Police in May 2002 (Ref A) for
"publishing falsehoods" under Zimbabwe's controversial
"Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act"
(AIPPA), but was subsequently cleared of that charge after
a trial in July 2002 (Ref B). The GOZ responded to
Meldrum's acquittal by slapping him with a deportation
order within minutes of the announcement of the "not
guilty" verdict. However, Meldrum's attorney successfully
appealed the deportation order in Zimbabwe's High Court.
2. During the evening of May 7, several men approached
Meldrum's Harare home claiming to be Government of Zimbabwe
immigration officials. The men refused to show
identification to Meldrum's wife or his lawyer and would
not state the purpose of their inquiry. Meldrum was not at
home, so the unidentified officials demanded that he
present himself at the immigration offices the following
day. Meldrum refused to comply with this request until he
or his lawyer was informed about why immigration wanted to
see him. He has been staying with friends and keeping a
low profile until the situation can be resolved.
3. Two Guardian newspaper executives (British citizens)
traveled to Zimbabwe on May 9 to assist Meldrum in
resolving his standoff with Zimbabwean immigration. Both
men were given 30-day visas at the Harare airport, but
later in the day were told by immigration officials that
their visas had been revoked and that they had 24 hours to
leave the country. Immigration alleged that the Guardian
executives had incorrectly filled in their immigration
forms and had failed to seek advance permission from
Zimbabwe's Minister of Home Affairs for "entering the
country to discuss a sensitive issue."
4. Meldrum's attorney, Beatrice Mtetwa, secured an
interview with Zimbabwe's Chief Immigration Officer, Mr.
Mgwabi, on Monday May 12. Mgwabi claimed that Meldrum's
High Court order (granted in 2002) allowing him to remain
in Zimbabwe as a permanent resident had expired, as Meldrum
failed to file a further appeal with the Supreme Court of
Zimbabwe. Mtetwa was however able to convince Mgwabi that
it was in fact incumbent upon the GOZ to file an appeal
with the Supreme Court if they so desired, as the High
Court had ruled in Meldrum's favor. After the interview,
the Chief Immigration Officer did agree with Mtetwa that
the High Court order (granting Meldrum continued permanent
residency) remained in place indefinitely. However, he
insisted that Meldrum come to immigration on May 13th to
meet with another immigration official named Siziba.
5. Meldrum reported to immigration as instructed on May
13th, accompanied by his attorney and conoff. Senior
immigration officer Siziba refused to allow conoff to
participate in the interview. Siziba and another colleague
first lectured Meldrum about the GOZ's displeasure with the
type of stories he is writing about Zimbabwe, complaining
that he portrays the country and its government in a
negative light. Siziba then questioned Meldrum about his
original application for permanent residency, filed in
1988, claiming that he misrepresented his profession.
Though all of the forms indicate that Meldrum was (and is)
a journalist, Siziba claims that he is now acting as a
"political correspondent" and that such activity is not
allowed under his residency permit. Siziba kept Meldrum's
passport and his residency card, and instructed him to
return to immigration on May 14 with a letter further
explaining his current occupation.
6. Ms. Mtetwa, Meldrum's lawyer, plans to return to
Immigration today (May 14) to submit the letter as
requested. Post will inform Department of further
developments as they unfold.
7. Andrew Meldrum is the only foreign journalist remaining
in Zimbabwe, and his harassment by GOZ immigration
officials is part of a clear pattern of actions aimed at
silencing critical coverage of events here. In 2001, the
GOZ began its campaign to expel all foreign journalists. A
BBC correspondent (Jonathan Winter) and an Uruguayan
freelancer (Mercedes Sayagues) were the first to go, after
each being visited in the middle of the night by state
security agents and given less than 48 hours to leave the
country. In 2002, Griffin Shea, an American citizen
working for AFP, was denied renewal of his work permit and
also forced to leave. If the GOZ is now able to force
Meldrum out, it will a serious blow to what remains of
press freedom in Zimbabwe.
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