Rueben Barwe finally gets US visa
By Lance Guma
Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) chief correspondent Rueben Barwe left for the United States to cover the 67th session of the United Nations General Assembly after the US Embassy in Harare ‘finally’ granted him a visa.
Barwe was not able to travel with Mugabe who left Harare Wednesday night for New York. Initial press reports claimed Barwe had been denied a US visa but the US Embassy in Harare issued a statement on Saturday denying this.
Speaking to the Zanu PF controlled Herald newspaper Barwe said “I am leaving today and will be there on Monday afternoon. This is a repetition of what happened in 2010 and I am disappointed. These are the same people who call themselves beacons of democracy but they deny a mere journalist a visa.”
Foreign Affairs minister Simbarashe Mumbengegwi even protested to the UN claiming the US was misusing its status as the seat of the UN headquarters for “political leverage to advance” their “agenda against Zimbabwe.”
But a statement from the embassy said “Barwe is not and never has been on the U.S. targeted sanctions list. No Zimbabwean journalists are on the U.S. targeted sanctions list. Contrary to recent press reports, Mr. Barwe was not denied a visa for the UNGA in 2012 or 2010, but did receive U.S. visas both years.”
“Visa processing can at times take longer than normal depending on the volume of applications; September is a high-volume visa processing time because of the UNGA. The United States takes seriously its role in facilitating foreign representative participation in the United Nations annual General Assembly.
The embassy said delegations from nearly 200 countries travel to the U.S. each year for this meeting and the U.S. State Department makes every effort to process delegation visa applications, including Zimbabwean applications, in a timely and efficient manner.
According to the embassy by Saturday “all Zimbabwean delegation members’ visas for the UNGA have been issued; two visas for government officials planning to attend meetings that coincide with the UNGA are still pending.”
The U.S. government first applied targeted sanctions in 2003 and targeted fewer than 120 individuals accused of aiding and abetting the gross human rights abuses committed by the Zanu PF regime. This saw key members in the regime being slapped with travel and financial restrictions.
Six Zimbabwean journalists, Rueben Barwe, Judith Makwanya, Pikirayi Deketeke, Caesar Zvayi, Munyaradzi Huni and Happison Muchechetere were placed on targeted sanctions by the European Union.
The sanctions were only lifted this year in February after a review by the EU.