Zim citizenship rules in chaos as nationals denied documentation

October 23, 2013 at 6:38 pm 1 comment

by Alex Bell 

Scores of Zimbabweans, whose citizenship is meant to be recognised and guaranteed by the new constitution, have been denied documentation in recent weeks, with a lack of clarity on the laws causing chaos.

It was hoped that with the creation and gazetting of a new constitution, the confusion over who is entitled to citizenship would finally be clarified.

According to that new charter there are three types of recognised citizenship including citizenship by birth and by descent. The law states that if you were born in Zimbabwe and your mother or your father was a Zimbabwean citizen, you are a citizen by birth. The same applies if you were born in Zimbabwe and neither of your parents was a Zimbabwean citizen, but any of your grandparents was a citizen by birth or descent.

You’re also considered a citizen by birth if you were born outside Zimbabwe but either your mother or your father was a Zimbabwe citizen who normally lived in Zimbabwe or was working for the Government or an international organisation. If not, and your parent or grandparent was a Zimbabwe citizen by birth or descent, then you are a citizen by descent.

But despite these clear laws, people are still being turned away if neither of their parents are Zimbabwean citizens.

This includes the daughter of Simon Spooner, the former MDC security adviser and campaign manager for Senator David Coltart. Spooner‘s daughter Kylie, has been unable to secure a new passport, despite being a citizen by birth and a former passport holder. Her mother is a Zimbabwean citizen by birth, while her father was born in Kenya, but also holds Zimbabwean citizenship.

Spooner told SW Radio Africa that his daughter was assured by Registrar authorities in Harare that she could apply for passport renewal, despite suggestions that this would not be possible “because the statutory instrument governing the new status for citizenship had not been gazetted.” The provincial registrar in Bulawayo also supported the position stated in Harare, saying only that she need a certificate of citizenship to secure her new passport.

However last week when she went to the citizenship office for this certificate, she and a number of other Zimbabweans seeking documentation were turned away by an official.

“The officer there simply said there is no statutory instrument and therefore the constitution is not binding. Further to that he indicated that anybody of that status could not apply for passports, that the whole matter had been frozen since June, So that effectively denies hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans, if not more, access to travel documents,” Spooner explained.

Spooner’s daughter was also told that because she obtained citizenship as a minor, “it no longer applies as you are now over 18.”

“What once senses is a deliberate obstruction and the manner in which people are being treated in this regard is very unpleasant,” Spooner said.

Calling it a “denial of people’s rights,” Spooner is now preparing to take the matter to court, saying: “Legal precedent is critical and a judgment needs to be delivered in a case like this.”

Andrew Makoni, the Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) said the constitution is clear, and by now, citizens recognised according to the charter should be allowed access to their documents. He explained that a clear precedent was set by South African based businessman Mutumwa Mawere, who secured his Zimbabwean citizenship and documentation after a court challenge.

“Mutumwa Mawere went to the Constitutional Court to assert his right as a citizen of Zimbabwe by birth, notwithstanding his citizenship in South Africa by naturalisation,” Makoni explained, saying that this clearly asserted the authority of the constitutional rules.

He meanwhile said that argument given to the Spooners about a lack of a ‘statutory instrument’ is a “lame excuse.” He said the only challenge is a failure by Parliament to enact a Citizenship and Immigration Board, which according to the constitution, should be set up to deal with citizenship issues.

“The board is not yet constituted, so that is a challenge… but the courts are there to ensure that those people being denied the rights to citizenship and to their documents can approach the courts for relief,” Makoni said.

Efforts to get comment from the office of the Registrar General were fruitless on Tuesday.

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