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There is a scramble for Zimbabwean citizenship by different nationalities the world over in the wake of the adoption of the new Constitution which allows dual citizenship, Registrar-General Mr Tobaiwa Mudede said yesterday.
Mr Mudede said his office was flooded by inquiries and demands from people from all continents who are claiming citizenship and asking him to prepare their passports.
The revelations put paid to claims by some sections of the media that Zimbabwe was a pariah state that many would not touch with a 10-foot pole, and has been read as a vote of confidence in the country’s capacity to prevail over the challenges it is facing.
The United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe at the turn of the millennium, spawning an economic meltdown that culminated in the collapse of the Zimbabwe dollar in 2008.
The Western alliance has regularly issued travel warnings to their nationals against visiting Harare and even encouraging their citizens to leave the country.
Ironically, addressing a luncheon he hosted for editors in Harare earlier this month, US ambassador to Zimbabwe Mr Bruce Wharton revealed that he felt very safe in Zimbabwe and urged Zimbabweans to cherish and maintain their peace.
Mr Mudede; who was speaking briefing members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Women’s Affairs, Gender and Community Development who were on a familiarisation tour of his offices, said he was having a headache with the constitutional provision on citizenship as it did not have a cut off period on which grandchildren could claim citizenship by birth.
He said even great-grandchildren of foreigners who came as migrant workers, but eventually secured citizenship by registration before they returned to their countries of birth were coming to claim Zimbabwean citizenship, notwithstanding that they might never have set foot in Zimbabwe.
Mr Mudede said the new Constitution allowed any person whose grandparents or fifth generation children born abroad to claim Zimbabwean citizenship even while abroad.
He said the provision had opened the floodgates for people demanding to be conferred citizenship even though they hold the citizenship for other countries.
“There is no question of second generation, third, fourth or fifth generation,” he said. “All of them have rights to come and that is the problem we are facing here.”
“We are having somebody phoning from Australia, Canada saying, ‘please look at my birth certificate, I want a passport’, when he is outside the country. I said, no, you have to come home, and he says, ‘no I want my passport first’, and I ask him: Do you have another passport of another country? And he says: ‘Yes I have two’. I ask him: so, why do you need a Zimbabwean passport? And he says, ‘because your Constitution allows me to do so’.
Mr Mudede said each time he advised applicants that they needed to wait for the alignment of laws he would be taken to the Constitutional Court and had lost all the cases.
“So, there is no difference,” he said. “A person born in New York can claim citizenship. Then you ask yourself the question whether or not this English is correct (citizenship by birth).
“What is now the difference between citizenship by descent, registration and by birth. Whether I like it or not I have to issue a passport to somebody abroad,” he said.
Some of those that have approached the Constitution Court and won include Zimbabwe-born, South African businessman Mr Mutumwa Mawere as well as medical practitioner and University of Zimbabwe lecturer Dr Farai Madzimbamuto, who are now holders of both South African and Zimbabwean passports.
Turning to queues at passport offices, Mr Mudede said that the challenge would not end, but what was important was how to manage it.
“Queues will not come to an end (the passport office)”, he said. “People are going out of the country for greener pastures. Our economy is not performing because of sanctions, so people will always come here for passports.”
Committee chairperson Cde Beata Nyamupinga (Zanu-PF) said there was need to separate queues for men and women to avoid cases of sexual abuse.
She said some men might take advantage of the long queues to abuse women while in the queues.
Asked why people were not allowed to submit their application forms online, Mr Mudede said that was a security issue.
He said it was important for applicants to physically present themselves to allow authorities to check the information in their presence.